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Revised and Enlarged. Printed from new plates. With maps. 
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To accompany "An Introduction to English Literature." 
12mo. 50c. 


514 pp. Large 12mo. $1.G0. 

Includes with a briefer and earlier form of the historical and crit- 
ical matter of the Introduction a number of selections (each complete) 
from representative authors from Chaucer to Tennyson. 


749 pp. 12mo. $1.50. 

577 pages of poetry (100 of them devoted to Victorian verse), con- 
taining some 250 complete poems besides selections from such longer 
ones as "The Faerie Queene," "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage," etc. 
163 pp. of notes (mainly biographical) and an Index. 


550 pp. Large 12mo. $1.50. 

About one hundred selections (most of them complete in them- 
selves) from standard English authors, with introduction and notes. 


With studv lists of works to be read, references, chronological tables, 
and portraits. 393 pp. 16mo. $1.12. 


By Ilenry S. Pancoast and Percy Van Dyke Shelly. 
497 pp. Large 12mo. $1.25. 


By Henry S. Pancoast and J. D. Spaeth, Professor in Princeton 

Characteristic examples of English poetry from the earliest extant 
Anglo-Saxon poems to the latter part of the sixteenth century. 

Henry Holt and Company 
new york chicago 











Copyright, 1910, 1911, 






This collection (as a glance at the contents will show) is 
intended to illustrate by representative selections the progress 
of English poetry from its remote beginnings to the latter part 
of the sixteenth century. In fact, although not in name, it 
forms an introductory volume to Mr. Pancoast's Standard 
English Poems. As the selections in the Standard English 
Poe?ns begin with Spenser, toward the close of the sixteenth 
century, and end with the Victorian poets, the two collections, 
taken together, are designed to illustrate the entire course of 
English poetry, so far as the limitations of space and the plan 
of the books will permit. 

The present collection opens with some of the earliest sur- 
viving expressions of the English race in literature ; it follows 
the main stream of English poetry through Anglo-Saxon and 
through Norman England, — from the days of the gleeman to 
the days of the trouvere ; it moves on through medieval 
England to the complex and changing era of Chaucer and 
Langland ; it carries us on through the fifteenth century, 
when the nation was crossing the marches that lay between 
the old age and the new ; it shows the entrance into poetry 
of new forms and new ideals, and it ends just as the greatest 
period of Elizabethan literature — the age of Spenser, 
Marlowe, and Shakespeare — is about to begin. It is a long 
journey from the days before England was, when Widsith the 
Gleeman unlocked his word-hoard, to that triumphant epoch 
when the Armada was shattered, and when Spenser wrote 
the Faerie Queene. In attempting to illustrate the history of 
English poetry through so great a stretch of time, the most 
that can be done in an anthology of this scope and character 


is to suggest by a few representative and significant examples 
the general course of poetry in its long progress. 

It is hardly possible to follow this broadening stream of 
poetry without reflecting on the great change that has taken 
place in our attitude towards the beginnings of English his- 
tory and literature. It is not so very long ago that the mass 
of readers knew and cared little about the life and literature 
of the earliest England. To Milton, as we all know, the petty 
wars between the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms seemed of no more 
moment than "the battles of crows and kites, 1 ' while the 
youthful Addison pronounced the poetry of Chaucer too rude 
and barbarous to please the cultivated taste of his politer 
age — the age of the Mohawks and the Dunciad. Since 
Pope's time, and especially during the last hundred years, the 
labours of a host of writers, translators, and investigators have 
uncovered to the sun and air these dark and neglected places 
of England's past ; and not only the literature, but the early 
life, the religion, and the political institutions of early England 
have been made comparatively open and familiar. It is hardly 
too much to say that the scholars, especially those of Germany 
and England, have recovered for us a half forgotten and neg- 
lected world. Yet even now, while much has been accom- 
plished, the earlier poetry of England is only beginning to 
come into its own. The scholars have prepared the way, but 
the poetry of early England does not belong to the scholar 
alone ; it has more than a philological or an antiquarian value ; 
it has — with all its shortcomings — a human interest and a 
poetic quality which entitle it to become the possession of all 
who love literature for its own sake. There are indications on 
every hand that this early literature is no longer the exclusive 
property of the specialist, but that it is being rapidly annexed 
to the vast domain which all lovers of English literature enjoy 
in common. In the latest edition of Chambers's Cyclopedia of 
English Literature the space given to the Anglo-Saxon period 


has been increased tenfold. The earliest selections in 
Palgrave's classic Golden Treasury (first published just fifty 
years ago) date from about the middle of the sixteenth cen- 
tury ; the earliest selections in the Oxford Book of Verse take 
us back to about 1250. It is this change of attitude towards 
our earlier poetry, rather than any personal difference of taste 
between the editors of these two admirable collections, that 
has won us these additional three hundred years. 

This change of attitude, which might be illustrated by many 
similar examples, is assuredly a sign of progress. It is no 
depreciation of the labor of the scholar, but rather an evidence 
of its value. It is plain that the researches of the specialist 
in these fields, minute and contracted as they may have some- 
times seemed, have had a wider influence, a more general 
significance, than might at first have been supposed. It is 
plain that these intensive students of the life, language, and 
literature of early England may be justly compared to those 
adventurers who press on in the van of immigration, and so 
open up to civilization regions hitherto inaccessible, or but 
sparsely settled. 

In this work of reclamation the translator as well as the 
pioneer scholar has his place and office. It is better, of 
course, to read this early literature in the language in which 
it was written, than to read it in translation, but it is better to 
read it in a translation, or in a modernized form, than not to 
read it at all. We may regret that Keats could not read the 
Iliad in Greek, and we may be thankful at the same time 
that he did read it in English. 

This collection is intended for the use and enjoyment of 
those students and lovers of poetry who are unacquainted 
with Old and Middle English. This purpose committed the 
editors to the task of translation and modernization. They 
felt that students of language were comparatively well pro- 
vided for in books of another class, and that it was in any 


case impracticable to furnish adequate linguistic apparatus in 
a book of this scope. In approaching their task the editors 
were agreed that faithfulness to the spirit of a poem should 
take precedence of a literal exactness in the rendering. The 
translations are not intended to be used as an aid to reading 
the originals, but as reproductions that shall give the modern 
English reader an impression analogous to that made by the 
originals upon contemporaries. The principle which the 
editors have had before them is in fact identical with that 
recently advocated by Francis Storr in the Educational Review 
(November, 1909), and they heartily subscribe to Rossetti's 
canon of translation there quoted : " The life-blood of rhythmi- 
cal translation is this commandment that a good poem shall 
not be turned into a bad one. The only true motive for 
putting poetry into fresh language must be to endow a fresh 
nation as far as possible with one more possession of beauty. 
Poetry not being an exact science, literality of rendering is 
altogether secondary to this chief law. I say literality, not 
fidelity, which is by no means the same thing." * 

While the editors hold themselves responsible in common 
for the general plan and scope of the book, and for the general 
principles above mentioned, in their actual application to the 
material in hand there was a division of labor. Mr. Spaeth 
is responsible for the Old English section, selection, trans- 
lation, and notes ; Mr. Pancoast is responsible for the rest of 
the book, selection, translation, modernization, and notes. 

The editor of the Old English section has stated in a spe- 
cial note his views on the method of rendering Old English 
verse. He believes that the translator who renders Old into 
Modern English is under obligation of loyalty to the genius 
of Modern English, as well as that of Old English. "Con- 
flict of loyalty" is a familiar tragic motive in Germanic Epic. 
A translation can hardly be called "faithful," if in its loyalty 
to a dead tongue it butchers a living one. These translations 


represent at least an- effort to make English poetry out of 
Anglo-Saxon poetry. Many of them were made years ago, 
and read to classes in the Boys 1 High School at Philadelphia. 
Like the poems they aim to reproduce, they led a mouth-to- 
ear existence long before they were elevated to the dignity of 
"letters. 1 ' Even now the translator would wish to have them 
judged chiefly by their effect when read aloud. The older the 
poetry, the more vocal it is. Versions of Old English poetry 
that fail to make their appeal through the living rhythms of the 
living voice fail not only in an essential of all poetry, but in a 
quintessential of Anglo-Saxon poetry. 

Before the final revision of the Widsith and Beowulf ver- 
sion was made, Professor Gummere's Oldest English Epic 
appeared. The translator is glad to acknowledge his indebt- 
edness to Dr. Gummere, as what worker in this field must 
not, and to thank him for the interest with which he listened 
to some of these translations years ago. To his colleagues in 
the English Faculty at Princeton, and especially to his friend, 
Professor Axson, he wishes to express his thanks for helpful 
criticism when the book in a preliminary form was in use with 
the sophomore class at Princeton. 

In a collection of this scope and character each period has 
its own peculiar problems and difficulties for the editor. The 
editor of the period from the Norman Conquest to Spenser 
was called upon to deal with poetry of widely different times, 
and in some cases, of different dialects. Some of this poetry, 
like Layamon's Brut, or the Pearl, is almost unintelligible to 
the modern reader in its original form ; some of it, on the other 
hand, belongs to the early Elizabethan period, and hence its lan- 
guage does not differ materially from that of our own day. To 
what extent should this poetry, which covers, roughly speaking, 
a period of some four hundred years, be given a modern form ? 
The purpose of the book made it imperative that this poetry 
should be made readily intelligible from first to last, and at 


the same time the editor was reluctant to discard any obsolete 
word which could be readily understood or explained, and 
was anxious to preserve as far as possible the flavor of the 
original. After some experimenting, the editor decided to be 
bound by no iron rule, but, at the risk of being thought in- 
consistent, to treat each poem as a separate problem, render- 
ing each selection as best he could, changing as little or as 
much as seemed expedient, unconstrained by what he had 
done in other cases. For instance, it was felt that farther 
modernization would have been fatal to the melody of such a 
charming lyric as When the Nightingale Sings (p. 168), and 
so, at the sacrifice of consistency, fewer changes were made in 
it than in some of the other songs dating from about the same 
time. This method, of course, is open to one objection. In 
order to make all the poems intelligible, the editor was com- 
pelled practically to translate some of the earlier selections, 
while the later poems could safely be given almost with- 
out change. As a result of this, some of the later poems 
contain more unfamiliar words, and are apparently written in 
an older English than selections of an earlier date. While 
this is to be regretted, the editor, feeling himself confronted 
with a choice of evils, chose what seemed to be the least. 

One departure has been made from the general plan of the 
book : the selections from Chaucer have been given unmod- 
ernized. The reasons for this inconsistency are so obvious 
that it does not seem to require any explanation. Except in 
a few cases, the editor has followed the text of Chaucer in the 
Globe edition. 

Two poems in the Middle English period, Poema Morale 
(p. 122) and Alysoun (p. 164), are given as they appear in 
Horace M. Kennedy's translation of Ten Brink's Early English 
Literature, while the version of the passage from the Ormulum, 
on p. 122, is taken from Chambers's Cyclopedia of English 


The obligations of the editor of the later portion of the 
book are more than he can here specifically acknowledge. 
One of the pleasantest features of work of this character is 
the help that is so freely and kindly given on every hand. 
The editor cannot refrain, however, from expressing his ap- 
preciation of the kindness and courtesy shown him by those 
in charge of the Library Company of Philadelphia, of the 
Library of the University of Pennsylvania, and of the Free 
Library of Philadelphia. To this acknowledgment the editor 
must add a word of gratitude to his friends, Dr. Schelling, 
Dr. Child, and Mr. Shelly of the University of Pennsylvania. 

H. S. P. 
J. D. S. 




I. Charms 


The Ploughman's Charm . 

Charm for a Sudden Stitch . . . ... 

II. Old English Epic 

The Life of the Gleeman (from Widsith) 

The Myth of the Sheaf-Child (from Beowulf) 

The Sea Voyage (from Beowulf) . 

The Fight with Grendel (from Beowulf) 

The Fight with Grendel's Mother (from Beowulf) 

Beowulf s Last Fight and Death (from Beowulf) . 

III. Biblical Epic 

The Fall of Man (from Younger Genesis) 30 

The Drowning of the Egyptians (from Exodus) 43 

IV. Christian Lyric 

C/EDMON : Northumbrian Hymn 45 

Cynewulf : Hymn of Praise (from The Crist) ... 46 

The Voyage of Life (from The Crist) .... 47 

Doomsday (from The Crist) ..... 47 

The Vision of the Cross ...... 50 

The Phoenix ........ 54 



V. Secular Lyric and Elegy 


/ The Wanderer 65 

The Sea-Farer 68 

The Husband's Message . . . . . . . 71 

VI. Riddles and Gnomic Verse 

The Book-Worm <■ 7 2 

Gnats . 73 

The Shield 73 

Barnacle on the Hull of a Sailing- Vessel .... 73 

Honey-Mead 74 

The Anchor 74 

The Plough . . 75 

Gnomic Verses 75 

The Fates of Men 79 

VII. Historic War-Poems 

The Battle of Brunnanburg (from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle') 81 
The Battle of Maldon 84 



I. History and Romance 

Layamon : How Layamon Wrote His Book (from the Brut) 95 
Robert of Gloucester: In Praise of England (from Rim- 

ing Chronicle) ........ 96 

Norman and English (from Riming Chronicle) . . ,7 

Lawrence Minot : The Battle of Halidon Hill 9S 
Prayer for King Edward (from How Edward the 

King came to Brabant) . . . . . . 101 



Song of the Scottish Maidens after the Battle of Bannock- 
burn IOI 

John Barbour: Freedom (from The Bruce) . . . 102 

Sir Orpheo 103 

The Seasons (from Sir Gawayne and the Green Knight) . 117 
Sir Gawayne's Journey (from Sir Gawayne and the Green 

Knight) 119 

II. Moral and Religious Verse 

Poema Morale 121 

Orm : Ormulum 122 

Thomas of Hales: A Love Letter 123 

The Debate of the Body and the Soul 127 

The Owl and the Nightingale . . . . . ^ . 136 
Robert Manning of Brunne : In Praise of Woman (from 

Handlyng Synne) ....... 140 

Cursor Mundi 140 

Richard Rolle : Heaven (from The Prick of Conscience) . 144 

The Pearl 145 

William Langland : Piers the Ploughman (selections) . 155 

The Vision (from Pass us /) . . . . . . . 159 

III. Songs and Poems 

Canute's Song . .161 

Cuckoo Song . 161 

Spring Song . . . . . . , . . .162 

Song 163 

Song 163 

Winter Song 164 

i- Alysoun 164 

Blow, Northern Wind 166 

When the Nightingale Sings 168 

• Ubi Sunt qui Ante Nos Fuerunt? 169 

Earth 170 



Life 172 

Ave Maria 172 

Lullaby . . . . . . . . . . .173 

Lullaby . . . . . . . . . . 173 


I. Chaucer and Gower 

Geoffrey Chaucer : The Dethe of Blaunche the Duchesse 

(selections) 177 

The Parlement of Foules (selection) . . . .181 
The Legend of Good Women (selections from the 

Prologue) . . 182 

The Canterbury Tales : The Prologue . . . 190 

The Merry Words of the Host to Chaucer . . 214 

The Pardoners Tale 215 

The Compleynt of Chaucer to His Purse . . . 222 

The Ballad of Good Counsel 223 

John Gower : The Praise of Peace 224 

II. English Followers of Chaucer 

The Flower and the Leaf (selection) 228 

A Praise of Women (selection) . . . . . 232 

Merciles Beaute 234 

Sir Thomas Clanvowe: The Cuckoo and the Nightingale . 234 
John Lydgate : In Praise of Chaucer (from the Prologue to 

The Story of Thebes) 236 

The Daisy (from A Goodly Balade of Chaucer) . . 236 

The Testament of John Lydgate (selection) . . 237 

Thomas Hoccleve : Thomas Hoccleve's Complaint . . 238 

A Lament for Chaucer (from The Regimen of Princes) 2^1 

Rondel or Chanson to Somer . . . . . 244 


Stephen Hawes : The Epitaph of Graunde Amour (from 

The Pastime of Pleasure) 244 

III. Scottish Poets after Chaucer 

King James the First : The King's Quair .... 246 

A Ballad of Good Counsel 248 

Robert Henryson : The Complaint of Cressid . . . 249 

The Tale of the Paddock and the Mouse . . . 255 
Content (from The Tale of the Upland Mouse and the 

Burgess Mouse) 259 

William Dunbar : No Treasure without Gladness . . 260 

To a Lady 261 

The Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins .... 262 

The Lament for the Makers . . . . 264 

Of Life 268 

GAWAIN Douglas : Welcome to the Summer Sun . . 268 

Night (from the ALneid) 269 

Sir David Lyndsay: The Prologue (from The Dream) . 270 
An Apology for Writing in the Vulgar and Maternal 

Language (from The Monarchy) . . . • 273 

The Restoration of All Things (from The Monarchy) 275 

The Desire for Rest (from The Monarchy) . . 277 

James Wedderburn : Leave me Not 278 

Alexander Scott : The Lament of the Master of Erskine . 280 

Paraphrase of the Fiftieth Psalm 281 

IV. Ballads of Uncertain Date 

Thomas the Rhymer 282 

The Twa Corbies ......... 285 

The Green- Wood (from Robin Hood and the Monk) . . 285 


V. Poems, Songs, and Carols of the Early Tudor 


The Nut-Brown Maid 286 

A Lyke-Wake Dirge 297 

The Uses of Adversity . 298 

Quid est Homo 299 

Make we Merry in Hall and Bour ...... 299 

Make we Merry both More and Less 300 

What Cheer, Good Cheer 3C0 

The Jolly Shepherd 301 

Fill the Cup, Philip . 302 

Make Room, Sirs 303 

The Hunt is Up . . . . . . . . 303 

My Heart is High Above 304 

Death 305 

William Cornish : God's Care for Man .... 306 

John Skelton : A Dirge for Philip Sparrow (selection) . 307 

Colin Clout (selection) 309 

To Mistress Margaret Hussey 310 



Sir Thomas Wyatt: The Lover's Life compared to the Alps 313 

Forget not Yet 314 

The Courtier's Life ........ 314 

Of the Mean and Sure Estate 315 

And wilt thou leave me Thus? 315 

Of the Courtier's Life 316 

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey: Descripiion of Spring 318 

The Frailty of Beauty 318 

A Complaint . . . . . . . . 319 

The Means to attain a Happy Life .... 320 

How no Age is content with his own Estate . . 320 



Selections from Translations of the yEneid . . . 322 

The Death of Laocoon 322 

Night 323 

Lord Thomas Vaux : Of a Contented Mind . . . 323 

Death in Life 325 

Thomas Tusser : Posies for thine own Bed Chamber . . 325 

Two Sorts of Men 326 

Richard Edwards: May 327 

George Turberville : The Lover 328 

George Gascoigne: The Lullaby of a Lover (from The 

Posies) 329 

De Profundis (from The Posies) . 330 

The Steel Glass (selection) ..... 332 

Thomas Sackville: Induction to a Mirrour for Magistrates 342 

Sir Philip Sidney : Sonnets (from Astrophel and Stella) . 360 

I. " Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to 

show" 360 

V. " It is most true, that eyes are form'd to serve" , 360 

XXVI. " Though Dusty wits dare scorn Astrology " . 361 
XLVIII. "Soul's joy, bend not those morning stars 

from me " 361 

LXXIV. " I never drank of Aganippe's well " . . 362 

Song: "The nightingale, as soon as April biingeth " . 362 
A Farewell : " Leave me, O Love ! which reachest but to 

dust " . 363 

Notes 365 






Here is the remedy how thou mayest cure thy land if it 
refuses to bear, or if aught untoward hath befallen it by way 
of witchcraft or sorcery. Strew seed on the body of the plough 
and repeat these words: — 

Erce, Erce, Erce, Mother of Earth, (^p) 

May the Almighty, Lord Everlasting, 

Grant thee fields, green and fertile, 

Grant thee fields, fruitful and growing, 

Hosts of Spear-shafts, shining harvests, 5 

Harvest of Barley the broad, 

Harvest of Wheat the white, 
All the heaping harvests of earth! 
May the Almighty Lord Everlasting, 
And his holy saints in heaven above, 10 

From fiend and foe defend this land, 
Keep it from blight and coming of harm, 
From spell of witches wickedly spread! 
Now I pray the Almighty who made this world, 


That malice of man, or mouth of woman 15 

Never may weaken the words I have spoken. 

Start the plough, and when the first furrow is turned, say: — 

Hail to thee Earth, Mother of men! {67) 

Grow and be great in God's embrace, 
Filled with fruit for the food of men! 

Knead a loaf of bread with milk and holy water, lay 
it under the first furrow and say: — 

Field be full of food for men, 20 

Blossom bright, for blessed thou art 
In the name of the Holy who made the Heavens, 
Created the earth whereon we live. 
God who gavest this ground 

Grant us growth and increase 25 

Let each seed that is sown, sprout and be useful. 


Take feverfew, and plantain, and the red nettle that grows 
into the house. Boil in butter. Say: — 

Loud was their cry as they came o'er the hill; 
Fierce was their rage as they rode o'er the land. 
Take heed and be healed of the hurt they have done thee. 

Out little spear if in there thou be! 
My shield I lifted, my linden-wood shining, 5 

When the mighty women mustered their force, 
And sent their spear-points spinning toward me. 
I'll give them back the bolt they sent, 
A flying arrow full in the face. 

Out little spear if in there thou be! 10 


Sat a smith, 

A hard blade hammered. 

Out little spear if in there thou be! 

Six smiths sat, 

Fighting spears forged they. 15 

Out spear, out! 
No longer stay in! 
If any iron be found herein*, 
The work of witches, away it must melt. 

Be thou shot in the fell, 20 

Be thou shot in the flesh, 

Be thou shot in the blood, 

Be thou shot in the bone, 

Be thou shot in the limb, 

Thy life shall be shielded. 25 

Be it shot of Ese, 

Be it shot of Elves, 

Be it shot of Hags, 

I help thee surely. 
This for cure of Esa-shot, 30 

This for cure of Elf-shot, 
This for cure of Hag-shot, 

I help thee surely. 
Witch fly away to the woods and the mountains. 
Healed be thy hurt! So help thee the Lord. 35 



(From the Widsith) 

Widsith unlocked his store of lays. 
Farthest he fared among folk on earth 
Through sundry lands receiving gifts 


In many a mead-hall. From Myrgings sprung 
His ancient line. With Alhild beloved 
Weaver of peace he went at the first 
From Angles to east of us, to Ermanric's home, 
King of the Reth-Goths, the ruthless traitor 
And treaty-breaker. Much-travelled he sang: — 

I was with Ermanric all that time (88) 10 

But the king of the Goths proved kind to me 

Gave me a ring that royal giver, 

Of gold-work pure, worth good six hundred 

Shining shillings, as shown by scale. 

When home I returned, my treasure I gave 15 

To Edgils my lord, my beloved protector, 

In lieu of the lands he let me hold, 

The ruler of Myrgings, in right of my father. 

Alhild my lady, Edwin's daughter, 

Queen of the daring, bequeathed me another; 20 

Praise of her bounty was published abroad, 

When I made my lays through many a land; 

Told of the goodliest gold-decked queen 

Known among men for making of gifts. 

Then Shilling and I with clear voice chanting, 25 

Lifted the song before our lord. 

Loud to the harp our lay rang out; 

Many there were, warriors mighty, 

Skilled in our art who openly said 

They never heard singing of songs that was better. 30 

Far I roamed o'er the realm of the Goths, 

Seeking for comrades the strongest and bravest: 

Ever the first were Ermanric's followers. . . .( ITI ) 

Many a spear, sped from the midst of them, (127) 

Yelling aloud as it leaped at the foe. 

Wudga and Hama took women and men; 35 

The banished comrades won booty of gold- 


In all my faring I found it true: 

He to whom God hath given the power • 

To be lord of men, is most beloved, 40 

Who holds his kingdom while here he lives. 

Thus fated to wander, wayfaring gleemen 

Make their songs in many a land, 

Saying their need and speaking their thanks. 

North or South, some one they meet, 45 

A judge of songs or a generous giver, 

Proud to be praised in presence of liegemen, 

Honored in lays till all is fled, 

Life and light together. Who lives for glory 

Holds under heaven the height of fame. 50 



(From Beowulf, lines 1-52) 

List to an old-time lay of the Spear-Danes, 

Full of the prowess of famous kings, 

Deeds of renown that were done by the heroes; 

Scyld the Sheaf-child from scourging foemen, 

From raiders a-many their mead-halls wrested. 5 

He lived to be feared, though first as a waif, 

Puny and frail he was found on the shore. 

He grew to be great, and was girt with power 

Till the border-tribes all obeyed his rule, 

And sea-folk hardy that sit by the whale-path 10 

Gave him tribute, a good king he was. 

In after years an heir was born to him, 

A goodly youth, whom God had sent 

To stay and support his people in need. 


(Long time leaderless living in woe, 15 

The sorrow they suffered He saw full well.) 

The Lord of Glory did lend him honor, 

Beowulf's fame afar was borne, 

Son of old Scyld in the Scandian lands. 

A youthful heir must be open-handed, 20 

Furnish the friends of his father with plenty, 

That thus in his age, in the hour of battle, 

Willing comrades may crowd around him 

Eager and true. In every tribe 

Honorable deeds shall adorn an earl. 25 

The aged Scyld, when his hour had come, 

Famous and praised, departed to God. 

His faithful comrades carried him down 

To the brink of the sea, as himself had bidden, 

The Scyldings' friend before he fell silent, 30 

Their lord beloved who long had ruled them. 

Out in the bay a boat was waiting 

Coated with ice, 'twas the King's own barge. 

They lifted aboard their bracelet-bestower, 

And down on the deck their dear lord laid, 35 

Hard by the mast. Heaped-up treasure 

Gathered from far they gave him along. 

Never was ship more nobly laden 

With wondrous weapons and warlike gear. 

Swords and corselets covered his breast, 40 

Floating riches to ride afar with him 

Out o'er the waves at the will of the sea. 

No less they dowered their lord with treasure, 

Things of price, than those who at first 

Had launched him forth as a little child 45 

Alone on the deep to drift o'er the billows. 

They gave him to boot a gilded banner, 

High o'er his head they hung it aloft, 


Then set him adrift, let the surges bear him: 

Sad were their hearts, their spirits mournful; 50 

Man hath not heard, no mortal can say 

Who found that barge's floating burden. 


(From Beowulf, lines 205-257) 

Beowulf, the hero, grew up at the court of his uncle Hygelac, 
King of the Geats or Jutes. Having heard how Heorot the 
great hall of the Danish Hrothgar, was ravaged by a man-monster 
named Grendel, he determined to rid King Hrothgar of his un- 
bidden guest, and prepared for the adventure. 

Beowulf chose from the band of the Jutes (205) 

Heroes brave, the best he could find; 

He with fourteen followers hardy 

Went to embark: he was wise in seamanship, 

Showed them the landmarks, leading the way. 5 

Soon they descried their craft in the water, 

At the foot of the cliff. Then climbed aboard 

The chosen troop; the tide was churning 

Sea against sand; they stowed away 

In the hold of the ship their shining armor, 10 

War-gear and weapons; the warriors launched 

Their well-braced boat on her welcome voyage. 

Swift o'er the waves with a wind that favored, 

Foam on her breast, like a bird she flew 

A day and a night they drove to seaward, 15 

Cut the waves with the curving prow, 

Till the seamen that sailed her sighted the land, 

Shining cliffs and coast-wise hills, 


Headlands bold. The harbor opened, 

Their cruise was ended. Then quickly the sailors 20 

The crew of Weder-folk clambered ashore; 

Moored their craft with clank of chain-mail 

And goodly war-gear. God they thanked 

That their way was smooth o'er the surging waves. 

High on the shore, the Scylding coast-guard 25 

Saw from the cliff where he kept his watch, 

Glittering shields o'er the gang-plank carried, 

Polished weapons: it puzzled him sore, 

He wondered in mind who the men might be. 

Down to the strand on his steed came riding 30 

Hrothgar's thane, with threatening arm 

Shook his war-spear and shouted this challenge: 

"Who are ye, men, all mailed and harnessed 

That brought yon ship o'er the broad sea-ways 

And hither have come across the water 35 

To land on our shores. Long have I stood 

As coast-guard here, and kept my sea-watch 

Lest harrying foe with hostile fleet 

Should dare to damage our Danish land. 

Armed men never from overseas came 40 

More openly hither. But how do ye know 

That law of the land doth give ye leave 

To come thus near. I never have seen 

Statelier earl upon earth than him, — 

Yon hero in harness. No house-carl he, 45 

In lordly array, if looks speak true, 

And noble bearing. But now I must learn 

Your names and country, ere nearer ye come, 

Underhand spies, for aught I know, 

In Danish land. Now listen ye strangers, 50 

In from the sea, to my open challenge: 

Heed ye my words and haste me to know 

What your errand and whence ye have come. 



(From Beowulf, lines 710-836) 

Beowulf made known his errand, and was welcomed in Heorot 
by the Danish King. When darkness fell, Hrothgar wished 
Beowulf and his men godspeed, and left the hall. The hero, 
ere he lay down, put away his weapons, for, said he, "I count 
myself not inferior to Grendel in main strength, therefore I will 
meet him in straight hand-to-hand fashion, and leave the issue 
to fate." 

Now Grendel came, from his crags of mist (7 10 ) 

Across the moor; he was curst of God. 

The murderous prowler meant to surprise 

In the high-built hall his human prey. 

He stalked neath the clouds, till steep before him 5 

The house of revelry rose in his path, 

The gold-hall of heroes, the gaily adorned. 

Hrothgar's home he had hunted full often, 

But never before had he found to receive him 

So hardy a hero, such hall-guards there. 10 

Close to the building crept the slayer, 

Doomed to misery. The door gave way, 

Though fastened with bolts, when his fist fell on it. 

Maddened he broke through the breach he had made; 

Swoln with anger and eager to slay, 15 

The ravening fiend o'er the bright-paved floor 

Furious ran, while flashed from his eyes 

An ugly glare like embers aglow. 

He saw in the hall, all huddled together, 

The heroes asleep. Then laughed in his heart 20 

The hideous fiend; he hoped ere dawn 

To sunder body from soul of each; 

He looked to appease his lust of blood, 

Glut his maw with the men he would slay. 


But Wyrd had otherwise willed his doom; 25 

Never again should he get a victim 

After that night. Narrowly watched 

Hygelac's thane how the horrible slayer 

Forward should charge in fierce attack. 

Nor was the monster minded to wait: 30 

Sudden he sprang on a sleeping thane, 

Ere he could stir he slit him open; * 

Bit through the bone-joints, gulped the blood, 

Greedily bolted the body piecemeal. 

Soon he had swallowed the slain man wholly, 35 

Hands and feet. Then forward he hastened, 

Sprang at the hero, and seized him at rest; 

Fiercely clutched him with fiendish claw. 

But quickly Beowulf caught his forearm, 

And threw himself on it with all his weight. 40 

Straight discovered that crafty plotter, 

That never in all midearth had he met 

In any man a mightier grip. 

Gone was his courage, and craven fear 

Sat in his heart, yet helped him no sooner. 45 

Fain would he hide in his hole in the fenland, 

His devil's den. A different welcome 

From former days he found that night! 

Now Hygelac's thane, the hardy, remembered 

His evening's boast, and bounding up, 50 

Grendel he clenched, and cracked his fingers; 

The monster tried flight, but the man pursued; 

The ravager hoped to wrench himself free, 

And gain the fen, for he felt his fingers 

Helpless and limp in the hold of his foe. 55 

'Twas a sorry visit the man-devourer 

Made to the Hall of the Hart that night. 

Dread was the din, the Danes in their houses 

Listened in awe to the ale-spilling fray. 

The hardiest blenched as the hall-foes wrestled 60 


In terrible rage. The rafters groaned; 
Twas wonder great that the wine-hall stood, 
Firm 'gainst the fighters' furious onslaught, 
Nor fell to the ground, that glorious building. 
With bands of iron 'twas braced and stiffened 65 

Within and without. But off from the sill 
Many a mead-bench mounted with gold 
Was wrung where they wrestled in wrath together. 
The Scylding nobles never imagined 

That open attack, or treacherous cunning, 70 

Could wreck or ruin their royal hall, 
The lofty and antlered, unless the flames 
Should some day swallow it up in smoke. 

The din was renewed, the noise redoubled; 

Each man of the Danes was mute with dread, 75 

That heard from the wall the wail of woe, 

The gruesome song of the godless fiend, 

His howl of defeat, as the slave of hell 

Bemoaned his hurt. The man held fast; 

Greatest he was in grip of strength, 80 

Of all that dwelt upon earth that day. 

Loath in his heart was the hero-deliverer 

To let escape his slaughterous guest. 

Of little use that life he deemed 

To human kind. The comrades of Beowulf 85 

Unsheathed their weapons to ward their leader; 

Eagerly brandished their ancient blades, 

The life of their peerless lord to defend. 

Little they deemed, those dauntless warriors, 

As they leaped to the fray, those lusty fighters, 90 

Laying on boldly to left and to right, 

Eager to slay, that no sword upon earth 

No keenest weapon could wound that monster: 

Point would not pierce, he was proof against iron; 

'Gainst victory-blades the devourer was charmed. 95 


But a woful end awaited the wretch, 
That very day he was doomed to depart, 
And fare afar to the fiends' domain. 

Now Grendel found, who in former days 

So many a warrior had wantonly slain, ioo 

In brutish lust, abandoned of God, 

That the frame of his body was breaking at last. 

Keen of courage, the kinsman of Hygelac 

Held him grimly gripped in his hands. 

Loath was each to the other alive. 105 

The grisly monster got his death-wound: 

A huge split opened under his shoulder; 

Crunched the socket, cracked the sinews, 

Glory great was given to Beowulf. 

But Grendel escaped with his gaping wound, no 

O'er the dreary moor his dark den sought, 

Crawled to his lair. 'Twas clear to him then, 

The count of his hours to end had come, 

Done were his days. The Danes were glad, 

The hard fight was over, they had their desire. 115 

Cleared was the hall, 'twas cleansed by the hero 

With keen heart and courage, who came from afar. 

The Lord of the Jutes rejoiced in his work, 

The deed of renown he had done that night. 

His boast to the Danes he bravely fulfilled; 120 

From lingering woe delivered them all; 

From heavy sorrow they suffered in heart; 

From dire distress they endured so long; 

From toil and from trouble. This token they saw: 

The hero had laid the hand of Grendel 125 

Both arm and claws, the whole forequarter 

With clutches huge, 'neath the high-peaked roof. 



(From Beowulf, 1345-1650) 

After a day spent in song and feast, the hall was cleared, and 
the Danes slept in it as of old. But during the night there was 
an unlooked for attack. Grendel's dam, a wolfish water-wife, 
broke into Hart Hall, and carried off the king's best thane. The 
next morning Beowulf, who had slept elsewhere, heard from 
Hrothgar what had happened, and was asked to undertake a 
second and more perilous adventure. But first the king de- 
scribed to him the haunts of the monsters. 

"I have heard my people, the peasant folk i I 345) 

Who house by the border and hold the fens, 

Say they have seen two creatures strange, 

Huge march-stalkers, haunting the moorland, 

Wanderers outcast. One of the two 5 

Seemed to their sight to resemble a woman; 

The other manlike, a monster misshapen, 

But huger in bulk than human kind, 

Trod an exile's track of woe. 

The folk of the fen in former days 10 

Named him Grendel. Unknown his father, 

Or what his descent from demons obscure. 

Lonely and waste is the land they inhabit, 

Wolf-cliffs wild and windy headlands, 

Ledges of mist, where mountain torrents 15 

Downward plunge to dark abysses, 

And flow unseen. Not far from here 

O'er the moorland in miles, a mere expands: 

Spray-frosted trees o'erspread it, and hang 

O'er the water with roots fast wedged in the rocks. 20 

There nightly is seen, beneath the flood, 

A marvellous light. There lives not the man 

Has fathomed the depth of the dismal mere. 


Though the heather-stepper, the strong-horned stag,, 

Seek this cover, forspent with the chase, 25 

Tracked by the hounds, he will turn at bay, 

To die on the brink ere he brave the plunge, 

Hide his head in the haunted pool. 

Wan from its depths the waves are dashed, 

When wicked storms are stirred by the wind, 30 

And from sullen skies descends the rain. 

In thee is our hope of help once more. 

Not yet thou hast learned where leads the way 

To the lurking-hole of this hatcher of outrage. 

Seek, if thou dare, the dreaded spot! 35 

Richly I pay thee for risking this fight, 

With heirlooms golden and ancient rings, 

As I paid thee before, if triou come back alive." 

Beowulf spoke, the son of Ecgtheow: 
"Sorrow not gray-beard, nor grieve o'er thy friend! 40 

Vengeance is better than bootless mourning. 
To each of us here the end must come 
Of life upon earth: let him who may 
Win glory ere death. I deem that best, 
The lot of the brave, when life is over. 45. 

Rise, O realm-ward, ride we in haste, 
To track the hag that whelped this Grendel. 
I tell thee in truth, she may turn where she will, 
No cave of ocean nor cover of wood, 

No hole in the ground shall hide her from me. 50 

But one day more thy woe endure, 
And nurse thy hope as I know thou wilt." 
Sprang to his feet the sage old king, 
Gave praise to God for the promise spoken. 
And now for Hrothgar a horse was bridled, 55 

A curly-maned steed. The king rode on, 
Bold on his charger. A band of shield-men 
Followed on foot. Afar they saw 
Footprints leading along the forest. 


They followed the tracks, and found she had crossed 60 

Over the dark moor, dragging the body 

Of the goodliest thane that guarded with Hrothgar 

Heorot Hall, and the home of the king. 

The well-born hero held the trail; 

Up rugged paths, o'er perilous ridges, 65 

Through passes narrow, an unknown way, 

By beetling crags, and caves of the nicors. 

He went before with a chosen few, 

Warriors skilled, to scan the way. 

Sudden they came on a cluster of trees 70 

Overhanging a hoary rock, 

A gloomy grove; and gurgling below, 

A stir of waters all stained with blood. 

Sick at heart were the Scylding chiefs, 

Many a thane was thrilled with woe, 75 

For there they beheld the head of ^Eschere 

Far beneath at the foot of the cliff. 

They leaned and watched the waters boil 

With bloody froth. The band sat down, 

While the war-horn sang its summons to battle. 80 

They saw in the water sea-snakes a many, 

Wave-monsters weird, that wallowed about. 

At the base of the cliff lay basking the nicors, 

Who oft at sunrise ply seaward their journey, 

To hunt on the ship-trails and scour the main, 85 

Sea-beasts and serpents. Sudden they fled,. 

W T rathful and grim, aroused by the hail 

Of the battle-horn shrill. The chief of the Jutes, 

With a bolt from his bow a beast did sunder 

From life and sea-frolic; sent the keen shaft 90 

Straight to his vitals. Slow he floated, 

Upturned and dead at the top. of the waves. 

Eager they boarded their ocean-quarry; 

With barb-hooked boar-spears the beast they gaffed, 

Savagely broached him and brought him to shore, 95 


Wave-plunger weird. The warriors viewed 
The grisly stranger. But straightway Beowulf 
Donned his corslet nor cared for his life. . . . {1442) 

To Hrothgar spoke the son of Ecgtheow: ( I 473) 

"Remember O honored heir of Healfdene, 100 

Now that I go, thou noble king, 

Warriors' gold-friend, what we agreed on, 

If I my life should lose in thy cause, 

That thou wouldst stand in stead of my father, 

Fulfil his office when I was gone. 105 

Be guardian thou, to my thanes and kinsmen, 

My faithful friends, if I fail to return. 

To Hygelac send, Hrothgar beloved, 

The goodly gifts thou gavest to me. 

May the Lord of the Jutes, when he looks on this no 

May Hrethel's son, when he sees these gifts, 
Know that I found a noble giver, 
And joyed while I lived, in a generous lord. 
This ancient heirloom to Unferth give, 
To the far-famed warrior, my wondrous sword 115 

Of matchless metal, I must with Hrunting 
Glory gain, or go to my death." 

After these words the Weder-Jute lord 

Sprang to his task, nor staid for an answer. 

Swiftly he sank 'neath the swirling flood; 120 

'Twas an hour's time ere he touched the bottom. 

Soon the sea-hag, savage and wild, 

Who had roamed through her watery realms at will, 

For winters a hundred, was 'ware from below 

An earthling had entered her ocean domain. 125 

Quickly she reached and caught the hero; 

Grappled him grimly with gruesome claws. 

Yet he got no scratch, his skin was whole; 


His battle-sark shielded his body from harm. 

In vain she tried, with her crooked fingers, 130 

To tear the links of his close-locked mail. 

Away to her den the wolf -slut dragged 

Beowulf the bold, o'er the bottom ooze. 

Though eager to smite her, his arm was helpless. 

Swimming monsters swarmed about him, 135 

Dented his mail with dreadful tusks. 

Sudden the warrior was 'ware they had come 

To a sea-hall strange and seeming hostile. 

Where water was not nor waves oppressed, 

For the caverned rock all round kept back 140 

The swallowing sea. He saw a light, 

A flicker of flame that flashed and shone. 

Now first he discerned the sea-hag monstrous, 

The water- wife wolfish. His weapon he raised, 

And struck with his sword a swinging blow. 145 

Sang on her head the hard-forged blade 

Its war-song wild. But the warrior found 

That his battle-flasher refused to bite, 

Or maim the foe. It failed its master 

In the hour of need, though oft it had cloven 150 

Helmets, and carved the casques of the doomed 

In combats fierce. For the first time now 

His treasure failed him, fallen from honor. 

But Hygelac's earl took heart of courage; 

In mood defiant he fronted his foe. 155 

The angry hero hurled to the ground, 

In high disdain, the hilt of the sword, 

The gaudy and jewelled; rejoiced in the strength 

Of his arm unaided. So all should do 

Who glory would find and fame abiding, 160 

In the crash of conflict, nor care for their lives 

The Lord of the Battle- Jutes braved the encounter; 

The murderous hag by the hair he caught; 

Down he dragged the dam of Grendel 


In his swelling rage, till she sprawled on the floor. 165 

Quick to repay in kind what she got, 

On her foe she fastened her fearful clutches; 

Enfolded the warrior weary with righting; 

The sure-footed hero stumbled and fell. 

On his prostrate body she squatted enormous; 170 

Unsheathed her hip-knife, shining and broad, 

Her son to avenge, her offspring sole. 

But the close-linked corslet covered his breast, 

Foiled the stroke and saved his life. 

All had been over with Ecgtheow's son, 175 

Under the depths of the Ocean vast, 

Had not his harness availed to help him, 

His battle-net stiff, and the strength of God. 

The Ruler of battles aright decided it; 

The Wielder all-wise awarded the victory: 180 

Lightly the hero leaped to his feet. 

He spied 'mongst the arms a sword surpassing, 

Huge and ancient, a hard-forged slayer, 

Weapon matchless and warriors' delight, 

Save that its weight was more than another 185 

Might bear into battle or brandish in war; 

Giants had forged that finest of blades. 

Then seized its chain-hilt the chief of the Scyldings; 

His wrath was aroused, reckless his mood, 

As he brandished the sword for a savage blow. 190 

Bit the blade in the back of her neck, 

Cut the neck-bone, and cleft its way 

Clean through her body; she sank to the ground; 

The sword was gory; glad was the hero. 

A light flashed out from the inmost den, 195 

Like heaven's candle, when clear it shines 

From cloudless skies. He scanned the cave, 

Walked by the wall, his weapon upraised; 

Grim in his hand the hilt he gripped. 

Well that sword had served him in battle. 200 


Steadily onward he strode through the cave, 

Ready to wreak the wrongs untold, 

That the man-beast had wrought in the realm of the 

Danes. . . . { x 579) 

He gave him his due when Grendel he found {1589) 205 

Stretched as in sleep, and spent with the battle. 
But dead was the fiend, the fight at Heorot 
Had laid him low. The lifeless body 
Sprang from the blows of Beowulf's sword, 
As fiercely he hacked the head from the carcass. 210 

But the men who were watching the water with Hrothgar 

Suddenly saw a stir in the waves, 

The chop of the sea all churned up with blood 

And bubbling gore. The gray-haired chiefs 

For Beowulf grieved, agreeing together 215 

That hope there was none of his home-returning, 

With victory crowned, to revisit his lord. 

Most of them feared he had fallen prey 

To the mere-wolf dread in the depths of the sea. 

When evening came, the Scyldings all 220 

Forsook the headland, and Hrothgar himself 

Turned homeward his steps. But sick at heart 

The strangers sat and stared at the sea, 

Hoped against hope to behold their comrade 

And leader again. 

Now that goodly sword 225 

Began to melt with the gore of the monster; 
In bloody drippings it dwindled away. 
'Twas a marvellous sight: it melted like ice, 
When fetters of frost the Father unlocks, 
Unravels the ropes of the wrinkled ice, 230 

Lord and Master of months and seasons. 
Beheld in the hall the hero from Juteland 
Treasures unnumbered, but naught he took, 
Save Grendel's head, and the hilt of the sword, 


Bright and jeweled, — the blade had melted, 235 

Its metal had vanished, so venomous hot 

Was the blood of the demon-brute dead in the cave. 

Soon was in the sea the slayer of monsters; 

Upward he shot through the shimmer of waves; 

Cleared was the ocean, cleansed were its waters, 240 

The wolfish water-hag wallowed no more; 

The mere-wife had yielded her miserable life. 

Swift to the shore the sailors' deliverer 

Came lustily swimming, with sea-spoil laden; 

Rejoiced in the burden he bore to the land. 245 

Ran to meet him his mailed comrades, 

With thanks to God who gave them their leader 

Safe again back and sound from the deep. 

Quickly their hero's helmet they loosened, 

Unbuckled his breastplate. The blood-stained waves 250 

Fell to a calm 'neath the quiet sky. 

Back they returned o'er the tracks with the footprints, 

Merrily measured the miles o'er the fen, 

Way they knew well, those warriors brave; 

Brought from the holm-cliff the head of the monster; 255 

'Twas toil and labor to lift the burden, 

Four of their stoutest scarce could carry it 

Swung from a spear-pole, a staggering load. . . . (1638) 

Thus the fourteen of them, thanes adventurous, (16 41) 

Marched o'er the moor to the mead-hall of Hrothgar. 260 

Tall in the midst of them towered the hero; 

Strode among his comrades, till they came to the hall. 

In went Beowulf, the brave and victorious, 

Battle-beast hardy, Hrothgar to greet. 

Lifting by the hair the head of Grendel, 265 

They laid it in the hall, where the heroes were carousing, 

Right before the king, and right before the queen; 

Gruesome was the sight that greeted the Danes. 



(Lines 2511-2820) 

Beowulf left with the Danes his grisly trophies of battle, the 
head of Grendel, his huge forequarter, and the hilt of the giant 
sword with its mystical runic inscription. Loading his boat 
with the gifts of Hrothgar, he and his comrades sailed away 
home. After the death of Hygelac and his son, Beowulf became 
king of the Jutes, and ruled over them fifty years. In his old 
age his people were harried by a fire-dragon whom the hero went 
out to fight. It seems that an outlaw, banished and flying for 
shelter, had come upon a treasure hid in a deep cave or barrow, 
guarded by a dragon. Long years before, an earl, the last of 
his race, had buried the treasure. After his death the dragon, 
sniffing about the stones, had found it and guarded it three hundred 
years, until the banished man discovered the place, and carried off 
one of the golden goblets. In revenge the dragon made nightly 
raids on Beowulf's realm, flying through the air, spitting fire, 
burning houses and villages, even Beowulf's hall, the "gift-stool" 
of the Jutes. Beowulf had an iron shield made against the dragon's 
fiery breath, and with eleven companions, sought out the hill- 
vault near the sea. Before attacking the monster he spoke these 
words to his comrades: 

Beowulf said to them, brave words spoke he: ( 2 5 JI ) 

"Brunt of battles I bore in my youth, 

One fight more I make this day. 

I mean to win fame defending my people, 

If the grim destroyer will seek me out, 5 

Come at my call from his cavern dark." 

Then he greeted his thanes each one, 

For the last time hailed his helmeted warriors, 

His comrades dear. "I should carry no sword, 

No weapon of war 'gainst the worm should bear, 10 

If the foe I might slay by strength of my arm, 

As Grendel I slew long since by my hand. 


But I look to fight a fiery battle, 

With scorching puffs of poisonous breath. 

For this I bear both breastplate and shield; 15 

No foot will I flinch from the foe of the barrow. 

Wyrd is over us, each shall meet 

His doom ordained at the dragon-cliff! 

Bold is my mood, but my boast I omit 

'Gainst the battle-flier. Abide ye here, 20 

Heroes in harness, hard by the barrow, 

Cased in your armor the issue await: 

Which of us two his wounds shall survive. 

Not yours the attempt, the task is mine. 

'Tis meant for no man but me alone 25 

To measure his might 'gainst the monster fierce. 

I get you the gold in glorious fight, 

Or battle-death bitter shall bear off your lord." 

Uprose with his shield the shining hero, 
Bold 'neath his helmet. He bore his harness 30 

In under the cliff; alone he went, 
Himself he trusted; no task for faint-heart. 
Then saw by the wall the warrior brave, 
Hero of many a hard-fought battle, 

Arches of stone that opened a way; 35 

From the rocky gate there gushed a stream, 
Bubbling and boiling with battle-fire. 
So great the heat no hope was there 
To come at the hoard in the cavern's depth, 
Unscathed by the blast of the scorching dragon. 40 

He let from his breast his battle-cry leap, 
Swoln with rage was the royal Jute 
Stormed the stout-heart; strong and clear 
Through the gloom of the cave his cry went ringing. 
Hate was aroused, the hoard-ward knew 45 

The leader's hail. Too late 'twas now 
To parley for peace. The poisonous breath 
Of the monster shot from the mouth of the cave, 


Reeking hot. The hollow earth rumbled. 

The man by the rock upraised his shield, 50 

The Lord of the Jutes, 'gainst the loathly dragon. 

Now kindled for battle the curled-up beast; 

The king undaunted with drawn sword stood, 

('Twas an heirloom olden with edge of lightning) 

Each was so fierce he affrighted the other. 55 

Towering tall 'neath tilted shield, 

Waited the king as the worm coiled back, 

Sudden to spring: so stood he and waited. 

Blazing he came in coils of fire 

Swift to his doom. The shield of iron 60 

Sheltered the hero too short a while, — 

Life and limb it less protected 

Than he hoped it would, for the weapon he held 

First time that day he tried in battle; 

Wyrd had not willed he should win the fight. 65 

But the Lord of the Jutes uplifted his arm, 

Smote the scaly worm, struck him so fierce 

That his ancient bright-edged blade gave way, 

Bent on the bone, and bit less sure 

Than its owner had need in his hour of peril. 70 

That sword-stroke roused the wrath of the cave-guard; 

Fire and flame afar he spirted, 

Blaze of battle; but Beowulf there 

No victory boasted: his blade had failed him, 

Naked in battle, as never it should have, 75 

Well-tempered iron! Nor easy it was 

For Ecgtheow's heir, honored and famous, 

This earth to forsake, forever to leave it; 

Yet he must go, against his will 

Elsewhere to dwell. So we all must leave 80 

This fleeting life. — Erelong the foes 

Bursting with wrath the battle renewed. 

The hoard-ward took heart, and with heaving breast 

Came charging amain. The champion brave, 


Strength of his people, was sore oppressed, 85 

Enfolded by flame. No faithful comrades 
Crowded about him, his chosen band, 
All sethelings' sons, to save their lives, 
Fled to the wood. One of them only- 
Felt surging sorrow; for nought can stifle 90 
Call of kin in a comrade true; 
Wiglaf his name, 'twas Weohstan's son 
Shield-thane beloved, lord of the Scylfmgs 
iElfhere's kinsman. When his king he saw 
Hard by the heat under helmet oppressed, 95 
He remembered the gifts he had got of old, 
Lands and wealth of the Waegmunding line, 
The folk-rights all that his father's had been; 
He could hold no longer, but hard he gripped 
Linden shield yellow and ancient sword. . . . (2610) 100 
For the first time there the faithful thane, (2652) 
Youthful and stalwart, stood with his leader, 
Shoulder to shoulder in shock of battle. 
Nor melted his courage, nor cracked his blade, 
His war-sword true, as the worm found out 105 
When together they got in grim encounter. 

Wiglaf in wrath upbraided his comrades, 
Sore was his heart as he spake these words: 
"Well I mind when our mead we drank 
In the princely hall, how we promised our lord no 

Who gave us these rings and golden armlets, 
That we would repay his war-gifts. rich, 
Helmets and armor, if haply should come 
His hour of peril; us hath he made 

Thanes of his choice for this adventure; 115 

Spurred us to glory, and gave us these treasures 
Because he deemed us doughty spearmen, 
Helmeted warriors, hardy and brave. 
Yet all the while, unhelped and alone, 


He meant to finish this feat of strength, 120 

Shepherd of men and mightiest lord 

Of daring deeds. The day is come, — 

Now is the hour he needs the aid 

Of spearmen good. Let us go to him now, 

Help our hero while hard bestead 125 

By the nimble flames. God knows that I 

Had rather the fire should ruthlessly fold 

My body with his, than harbor me safe. 

Shame it were surely our shields to carry 

Home to our lands, unless we first 130 

Slay this foe and save the life 

Of the Weder-king. Full well I know 

To leave him thus, alone to endure, 

Bereft of aid, breaks ancient right. 

My helmet and sword shall serve for us both, 135 

Shield and armor we share to-day." 

Waded the warrior through welter and reek; 

Buckler and helmet he bore to his leader; 

Heartened the hero with words of hope: 

"Do thy best now, dearest Beowulf, 140 

Years ago, in youth, thou vowedst 

Living, ne'er to lose thine honor, 

Shield thy life and show thy valor. 

I stand by thee to the end!" 

After these words the worm came on, 145 

Snorting with rage, for a second charge; 

All mottled with fire his foes he sought, 

The warriors hated. But Wiglaf's shield 

Was burnt to the boss by the billows of fire; 

His harness helped not the hero young. 150 

Shelter he found 'neath the shield of his kinsman, 

When the crackling blaze had crumbled his own. 

But mindful of glory, the mighty hero 

Smote amain with his matchless sword. 


Down it hurtled, driven by anger, 155 

Till it stuck in the skull, then snapped the blade, 

Broken was Naegling, Beowulf's sword, 

Ancient and gray. 'Twas granted him never 

To count on edge of iron in battle; 

His hand was too heavy, too hard his strokes, 160 

As I have heard tell, for every blade 

He brandished in battle: the best gave way, 

And left him helpless and hard bestead. 

Now for a third time neared the destroyer; 

The fire-drake fierce, old feuds remembering, 165 

Charged the warrior who wavered an instant; 

Blazing he came and closed his fangs 

On Beowulf's throat; and throbbing spirts 

Of life-blood dark o'erdrenched the hero. 

Then in the hour of utmost peril, 170 

The stripling proved what stock he came of; 
Showed his endurance and dauntless courage. 
Though burnt was his hand when he backed his kinsman, 
With head unguarded the good thane charged, 
Thrust from below at the loathly dragon, 175 

Pierced with the point and plunged the blade in, 
The gleaming-bright, till the glow abated 
Waning low. Ere long the king 
Came to himself, and swiftly drew 

The warknife that hung at his harness' side, 180 

And cut in two the coiled monster. 
So felled they the foe and finished him bravely, 
Together they killed him, the kinsmen two, 
A noble pair. So needs must do 

Comrades in peril. For the king it proved 185 

His uttermost triumph, the end of his deeds 
And work in the world. The wound began, 
Where the cave-dragon savage had sunk his teeth, 
To swell and fever, and soon he felt 


The baleful poison pulse through his blood, 190 

And burn in his breast. The brave old warrior 

Sat by the wall and summoned his thoughts, 

Gazed on the wondrous work of the giants: 

Arches of stone, firm-set on their pillars, 

Upheld that hill-vault hoar and ancient. 195 

Now Beowulf's thane, the brave and faithful, 

Dashed with water his darling lord, 

His comrade and king all covered with blood 

And faint with the fight; unfastened his helmet. 

Beowulf spoke despite his hurt, 200 

His piteous wound. Full well he knew 

His years on earth were ended now, 

His hours of glad life gone for aye 

His days alloted, and death was near: 

"Now would I gladly give to a son 205 

These weapons of war, had Wyrd but granted 

That heir of my own should after me come, 

Sprung from my loins. This land have I ruled 

Fifty winters. No folk-king dared, 

None of the chiefs of the neighboring tribes, 210 

To touch me with sword or assail me with terror 

Of battle -threats. I bided at home, 

Held my peace and my heritage kept, 

Seeking no feuds nor swearing false oaths. 

This gives me comfort, and gladdens me now, 215 

Though wounded sore and sick unto death. 

As I leave my life the Lord may not charge me 

With killing of kinsmen. Now quickly go, 

Wiglaf beloved, to look at the hoard, 

Where hidden it rests 'neath the hoary rock. 220 

For the worm lies still, put asleep by his wound, 

Robbed of his riches. Then rise and haste! 

Give me to see that golden hoard, 

Gaze on the store of glorious gems, 


That easier then I may end my life, 225 

Leave my lordship that long I held." 

Swiftly, 'tis said, the son of Weohstan 
Obeyed the words of his bleeding lord, 
Maimed in the battle. Through the mouth of the cave 
Boldly he bore his battle-net in. 230 

Glad of the victory, he gazed about him; 
Many a sun-bright jewel he saw, 
Glittering gold, strewn on the ground, 
Heaped in the den of the dragon hoary, 
Old twilight-flier, — flagons once bright, 235 

Wassail cups wondrous of warriors departed 
Stript of their mountings, many a helmet 
Ancient and rusted, armlets a many, 
Curiously woven.- (Wealth so hoarded, 
Buried treasure, will taint with pride, 240 

Him that hides it, whoever it be.) 
Towering high o'er the hoard he saw 
A gleaming banner with gold inwoven, 
Of broidure rare, its radiance streamed 
So bright, he could peer to the bounds of the cave, 245 

Survey its wonders; no worm was seen. 
Edge of the sword had ended his life. 
Then, as they say, that single adventurer 
Plundered the hoard that was piled by the giants; 
Gathered together old goblets and platters, 250 

Took what he liked; the towering banner 
Brightest of beacons he brought likewise. ... (27 "76) 

So Wiglaf returned with treasure laden (2783) 

The high-souled hero hastened his steps, 

Anxiously wondered if he should find 255 

The lord of the Weders alive where he left him 

Sapped of his strength and stretched on the ground 

As he came from the hill he beheld his comrade, 


His lord of bounty, bleeding and faint, 

Near unto death. He dashed him once more 260 

Bravely with water, till burden of speech 

Broke from his breast, and Beowulf spoke, 

Gazing sad at the gold before him: 

" For .the harvest of gold that here I look on, 

To the God of Glory I give my thanks. 265 

To the Ruler Eternal I render praise 

That ere I must go he granted me this, 

To leave to my people this priceless hoard. 

'Twas bought with my life; now look ye well 

To my people's need when I have departed. 270 

No more I may bide among ye here. 

Bid the battle-famed build on the foreland 

A far-seen barrow when names have burnt me. 

High o'er the headland of whales it shall tower, 

A beacon and mark to remind my people. 275 

And sailors shall call it in years to come 

Beowulf's Barrow as back from afar 

O'er the glooming deep they drive their keels." 

The great-hearted king unclasped from his neck 
A collar of gold and gave to his thane 280 

The brave young warrior, his bright-gilt helmet, 
Breastplate and ring. So bade him farewell: 
"Thou art the last to be left of our house. 
Wyrd hath o'erwhelmed our Waegmunding line, 
Swept my kinsmen swift to their doom. 285 

Earls in their prime. I must follow them." 
These words were the last that the warrior gray 
Found in his heart ere the flames he chose. 
Swift from his bosom his soul departed 
To find the reward of the faithful and true. 290 




( Younger Genesis, lines 246-764) 

The Ruler of hosts, in the realms of heaven, ( 2 4<5) 

By the strength of his arm established on high 

Ten angel tribes: he trusted them well 

To serve their leader and loyally work 

The will of God, who gave them their reason, 5 

Whose hand had shaped them, their Holy Lord. 

He dowered them all with wealth; 

but one He made so great, 
Such wisdom He gave him of mind, 

such might to wield, 
In heaven he was next to God; 

so glorious He made him, 
So gleaming his hue on high, 10 

that he had from his maker, 
He was like unto shining stars. 

His lord he was bound to serve, 
Hold dear the bliss of heaven; 

he was bound to thank his lord 
For the bounteous gift of light 

that so long He let him enjoy. 
But he turned it all to evil, 

and openly stirred up strife 
Gainst Heaven's highest Ruler, 15 

who sitteth on His holy throne. 
Dear had he been to our King, 

nor could it be kept from the Lord 
That His angel proud, was plotting rebellion. 


He rose 'gainst his ruler, and railed against God. 

He uttered defiance, refused to serve Him; 

Said that his body was bright and gleaming, 20 

Wondrous and fair, nor would he further 

Give obedience to God in heaven, 

Or serve him longer. It seemed to himself 

That his power and might were more than God's, 

His followers firmer in fealty bound. 25 

Many things uttered the angel in pride; 

By the power of his single strength he planned 

To make for himself a mightier throne, 

A higher in heaven. His haughty mood 

Urged him to own, in the North and West, 30 

A stately hall. He said he doubted 

Whether he further would follow God. 

"Why should I toil" said he; 

"I need acknowledge 
No man for my master; I may with these hands 
Work marvels as many. Mine is the power 35 

To rear a throne more royal than His, 
A higher in heaven. Then why should I grovel 

to win his grace, 
Bow in obedience to Him, when I may be God 

as well as He? 
Faithful followers back me, 

unfailing in battle; 
Those hardy heroes have chosen 40 

me for their chief, 
Sturdy warriors; with such 'tis well 

wars to plan, 
Battles to fight, with friends like these, 

faithful and true. 
Loyal their hearts, their leader I'll be, 
Rule in this realm; not right I think it 
To fawn upon God for favor and gifts. 45 

Henceforth his liegeman no longer am I!" 


When the Almighty heard all this, 

How his angel on high, with haughty lips 

Defiance uttered, and foolishly strove 49 

To rise against God, ... He was wroth in His heart, (295) 

And cast him down from his seat on high, (300) 

Hurled him to hell; from heaven banished, 

Down in those deeps he was changed to a devil. 

Thus fell the fiend with his followers all; 

Three days and nights they downward fell. 55 

Those angels of light the Lord did change 

To devils dark. For His deeds and words 

They failed to honor, wherefore the Lord 

Deprived them of light, and placed them, lost 

Deep under earth in darkest hell. 60 

There through the night immeasurably long, 

Fire unflagging they feel, each one; 

Then comes with the dawn an eastern wind, 

And bitter-cold frost, — ever fire or frost. 

Throes and hardship are theirs to endure, 65 

Banished from heaven. Their home was changed, 

When first the hollow of hell was filled 

With fallen fiends. But the faithful angels 

Held the heights of heaven above, 

While the fiends below in fire lay, 70 

The foes who in folly fought against God. 

They have their reward in the womb of hell, 

Blaze and broad flames, and bitter smoke, 

Glare and gloom. Beguiled by their pride 

The service of God they despised and forgot. . (326) 75 

Then spoke the insolent foe (33$) 

who once was fairest of angels, 
Most dazzling in heaven, and dear to his lord; 
(Within him sorrow seethed round his heart; (353) 
Without was the reek of the rolling flames, 
The welter of fire) — such words he spake: 80 


"This narrow place is nothing like 

That other world that once we knew, 

Where high in heaven our homes were set. 

Though God who gave, would not grant us to hold them, 

Rule our realm. Unrighteous his deed, 85 

To hurl us flying to this flaming pit, 

And the heat of hell, from heaven cut off! 

He hath planned to establish man in our place! 

This is the sorest of all my sorrows, 

That Adam should, — that shape* of earth, — 90 

For aye possess my stronghold there, 

And live in bliss while we must endure 

This brunt of wrath. Ah welaway! 

If but my hands were free; 

if but an hour I had, 
One winter's hour, then would I with this band — ! 95 

But iron bonds are all about me; 
The rough chain rides me hard, realmless I am. 
Hell's strong clutches clamp me down, 
Pin me fast, a prey to the flames, 

Over and under me endless fire. 100 

I have never looked on a loathlier sight, 
Quenchless blaze that quickens ever. 
Cables tough, and torturing chains 
Hold me here; my hands are shackled, 
My feet are fettered; fast I am bound; 105 

I may not pass the portals of hell, 
Loose my limbs from the links that hold them, 
Hammered hard, of iron hot, 
Bars and bolts. Thereby hath God 

Gripped my neck. I know from this, no 

That the Lord of men my mind did mark; 
Saw. that Adam and I should quarrel 
O'er heaven's realm, if my hands were free. 
But now we endure the throes of hell, 

darkness and heat, 


Grim and bottomless. God Himself 115 

Hath swept us into swarthy gloom, • 

though guiltless of sin! 
No wrong we did in his realm, 

yet robbed He us all of light; 
Cast us into cruellest woe! 

now may we wreak our wrongs, 
Pay him reward of hate; 

because he reft us of light. 
He hath marked a place called midgard, 120 

where man He hath wrought 
After His likeness. He looks to replace us 
In heaven with spotless souls! Now seek we earnestly 
How on Adam and all his offspring, 
Our wrongs' we may right, and wreak our vengeance, 
If haply we may beguile him 125 

to go astray from God. 
I have no hope of the light 

that He will long enjoy; 
Of the bliss that is His forever, 

'mongst angel-hosts in heaven. 
Nor may we hope to soften 

the heart of God Almighty. 
Then keep we that kingdom from man 

since we may come to it never; 
Tempt them to break His word, 130 

and turn from the will of their Maker. 
Thus shall His wrath be kindled, 

to cast them away forever. 
Then shall they seek this hell, 

sink to these gulfs of horror; 
And we shall hold them in chains, 

these children of men our vassals. 
Think of this deed, ye thanes of mine! 
If any there be, whom erst I favored 135 

With gifts of price, in that goodly kingdom, 


Where happy we lived and held our realm, 

No fitter time he could find, to reward 

The bounty I dealt, no better way, 

Than if now he were willing at need to escape; 140 

Break through these bars, by boldness and cunning; 

Don his feather-robe, fly through the air, 

Wheeling aloft till he light on the spot 

Where Adam and Eve on earth are standing, 

With bounty blessed, while banished we are 145 

To the dark abyss. They are dearer than we 

To Heaven's Lord; they live in joy, 

They have the wealth that once was ours, 

Our realm and our right! This rueth me sore, 

That they shall in heaven be happy forever! 150 

If any of you may alter their state, 

And make them transgress the command of God, {42Q) 

I shall lie at ease in my links of iron. {433) 

Who gaineth me this shall get his reward, 

The best I can give in the bounds of this fire: 155 

He shall sit with myself, who comes to say 

They have broken the law of the Lord of heaven." 

Then girded himself a foe of God; 

A crafty warrior clapped on his pinions; 

Set helmet on head, and hardily clasped it; 160 

Firmly fastened it down. He was fluent of speech, 

A master of guile. He mounted aloft, 

Swung through hell's door, the hardy adventurer, 

Wheeling through mid-air, on mischief bent, 

Cleaving the flames with his fiendish skill. 165 

He hoped to deceive the servants of God; 

Trick them with lies and lead them astray; 

Tempt them to rouse the wrath of God. 

Onward he flew, with fiendish skill 

And came where Adam on earth was standing, 170 

The work of God's hand, wondrously made; 


And with him his wife, of women the fairest. (457) 

Near by stood two stately trees, {460) 

Laden all over with largess of fruit, 

Bearing their bounty, as bidden by God, 175 

Heaven's high King, whose hand had set them 

For the children of men, to make their choice 

Of good and of evil; for each must choose 

'Twixt weal and woe. Unlike was their fruit: 

One was beautiful, bright and shining, 180 

Delightful to look on; that was life's tree. 

Who tasted its fruit, should flourish forever; 

Life everlasting his lot should be. 

Age might not injure nor dread disease. 

His days should pass in pleasure unending, 185 

High in the favor of heaven's King. 

And rich reward awaits him hereafter, 

In heaven above when hence he departs. 

The second tree all swart uptowered, 

Dark and dismal: that was Death's tree. 190 

Bitter the fruit it bore unto men! 

(Both good and evil must all men know.) 

Who tasted the fruit of that fatal tree, 

His life should wane and wither away 

In sorrow and trouble, in sweat and in toil. 195 

Age would strip him of strength and vigor, 

Gladness and glory; his goal is death. 

A little while he lingers on earth, 

But soon goes down to the darkest of lands, 

To serve the fiends in fire and woe, 200 

Hugest of tortures. The tempter knew it, 

The sneaking spy with his spite against God. 

In the shape of a serpent, he soon was coiled 

Round the tree of death, through his devil's craft. 

He took of the fruit, and turned to find 205 

The handiwork of heaven's King. 


With lying words, the loathly fiend 

Came toward the man, and questioned him there: 

"Hast thou any longing Adam, 

up to God? 
I have on his errand hither 210 

fared from far. 
'Twas not long since, that I sat with God himself. 
He bade me come and tell thee (500) 

to take of this fruit. . . . 
I heard him approve thy words and deeds, (5°7) 

Praise thy life, in His light above. 

Obey the behest that His herald brings! 215 

Soundless stretch Earth's broad green plains. 
God sitteth on high, in heaven enthroned, 
Nor deigns Himself to suffer the toil 
Of this journey long. So the Lord of hosts 
His herald doth send, to speak His will. 220 

He bids thee heed and obey His words. 
Stretch forth thy hand, and hold this fruit; 
Take it and taste it, thy heart will expand, 
Thy body grow brighter; thy bounteous Lord 
Sends thee this help from heaven above." 225 

Adam answered, where on earth he stood, 

God's handiwork: "When I heard the Lord, 

The King of heaven, call me aloud, 

With stern voice bid me stand on earth, 

And obey His will, — when He brought me this woman, 230 

This winsome bride, and bid me beware 

Lest the tree of Death should darkly deceive me, 

And betray me to woe, He warned me that hell 

Should hold him ever, within whose heart 

Evil was lurking. . . . Unlike thou seemest (531) 235 

To any angel that ever I saw! (5J#) 

Nor dost thou offer me any token, 

That truly from heaven thou hither art sent, 


Come from the Lord. I cannot obey thee! 

But take thyself off! My trust is in God, 240 

My faith is in Him whose hands did fashion me, 

That He may grant me each gift from on high, 

Without sending His servant to speak in His place." 

Then wrathfully turned the tempter away; 
Went where he saw the woman standing, 245 

Winsome and fair. The words he spake 
Brought woe to the world, and worst of pangs 
To all her offspring, in after years: 
"I know ye will rouse the wrath of God, 
When I tell him myself, returned from the journey, 250 

The long hard way, that ye would not listen, 
Nor heed the message that hither He sent, 
Far from the East. He shall fare Himself 
To make you His answer; no messenger then 
His word will bear, for I wot He will kindle 255 

His anger against you. But if thou, woman, 
A willing ear to my words shalt lend, 
His vengeance yet thou mayest avert. 
Bethink thee, Eve, that through thy wit 
Ye both may be saved from bitter woe! 260 

Eat of the fruit, and thine eyes shall be light! 
Far and wide o'er the world thou shalt look, 
God himself thou shalt see on His throne, 
And the favor of Heaven shalt have forever. 
Also, dear Eve, thou may'st alter the mind 265 

Of Adam thy husband, if thou have his goodwill, 
And he trust thy words, when the truth thou revealest: 
How glad was thy heart when God's behest 
Thou promptly didst heed: mayhap he will leave 
His stubborn mood, and silence the answer 270 

Of wrath in his bosom, if both of us now 
Urge him together. Now earnestly ply him 
To do thy bidding, lest both of ye fall 
Into God's disfavor, and get you His wrath! 


If this thou fulfillest, O fairest of women, 275 

I shall hide from my Lord the harsh words of Adam, 

The insults thy husband did heap upon me, 

When he challenged my honor, charged me with falsehood 

Said I was evil, no angel of God. 

Yet well do I know all the ways of the angels, 280 

The heavenly mansions. This many a year 

With loyal heart my lord I have followed, 

And rendered to God, the Ruler of Heaven, 

My dutiful service; no devil am I!" 

So he led with his lies, and lured with his wiles 285 

The woman to wrong; till the will of the serpent 

Worked in her bosom; (the weaker mind 

God had given her.) She began to listen 

And lean to his lore. At last she took 

From the tempter the fruit of the fatal tree, 290 

Against God's word. No worse deed ever 

For man was done. 'Twas marvel great 

That the Lord everlasting allowed it to happen, 

Permitted so many men upon earth 

By lying lore to be led astray. 295 

She tasted the fruit and turned from God, 

From His word and will. Then wide was her vision 

By the gift of the fiend, who beguiled her with lies, 

And darkly betrayed her; his doing it was 

That heaven and earth more white did seem, 300 

And all the world more wondrous fair, 

More glorious-great the works of God. 

(She beheld them not by human power, 

But the fiend had falsely before her; 

Her sight deceived her, when she seemed to look 305 

So far abroad.) The fiend now spoke, 

The tempter-foe, — his tale nought profited: 

"Now thou mayst see, I need not tell thee, 

How altered thy form, O fairest Eve, 


How beauteous thy body, since obeying my words, 310 

And heeding my lore. Now light shines about thee, 

Glorious and bright. I brought it from God, 

So fair from Heaven, thou mayst feel it and touch it. 

Reveal to Adam this vision of brightness, 

Vouchsafed by me. If with simple mind 315 

He agree to my wish, I will give him his fill 

Of the glorious light I gave to thee, 

Nor store up his insolent speeches against him, 

Though scarce he deserve so swift a pardon. 

Nor shall his children be charged with his fault, 320 

Banished from heaven for his misdoing; 

Their life shall be happy, though he hath done wrong." 

Then went to Adam of women the fairest, 
The winsomest wife the world ever saw, 
(Though comely her form, as she came from God's hand 325 
Yet was she undone by darkest wiles 
And won by lies), these words she spake: (p3°) 

"Adam my lord, this fruit is so sweet, {^55) 

So blithe in my breast, so bright this herald, 
This angel of God so good and fair, 330 

By his trappings I see he is sent from above. 
'Tis wiser for us to win his favor 
Than set him against us by surly words. 
If today thou hast uttered aught that was harsh, 
He yet will forgive, if he get our obedience. 335 

What profits this strife with the spokesman of God 
Thy Lord and Master? We need his good-will, 
For he may commend us to our Maker in heaven, 
Our Ruler on high. From here I can see 
Where He sits himself,— 'tis South and East — 340 

Enwound with glory, the world's Creator. 
I behold his angels hovering about Him 
In winged robes, a radiant host 
And choir glad. Whence cometh this vision, 
If God Himself vouchsafed it not to us, 345 


The King of heaven? I can hear afar, 

And look abroad o'er the bright creation 

Joyful harping I hear in heaven! 

Filled is my soul, and flooded with light, 

Since first I took and tasted this fruit. 350 

Here in my hand, dear husband, I bring it; 

Gladly I give it; from God it hath come, 

I firmly believe, as his faithful angel 

Hath told us it came, in truthful words. 

Nought else was ever on earth like this; 355 

'Tis sent by God as his spokesman declares." 

Sore she beset him, and spurred him all day 
To the deed of darkness; drove him to break 
The will of their Lord. The loathly fiend 
Stood near by, and subtly the while 360 

Incited their spirits to sin and shame. . . . {68f) 

Long she urged him, till Adam at last (7°5) 

Goaded by Eve, began to yield; 
His mind was turned, he trusted too much 
The winning words that the woman spake. 365 

Yet did she it all in duty and love, 
Nor weened what woe, what wailing and sorrow 
Should come to mankind, because she had hearkened 
To the voice of the devil. She deemed she was winning 
God's goodwill, by giving her husband 370 

The fruit to taste, and turning his mind 
By winsome words, her wish to perform. 
Death and the grave he got from the woman, 
Though it had not that name, — 'twas known as the fruit. 
Yet the devil's seduction meant death's long sleep, 375 

Doom of hell and downfall of heroes, 
Undoing of man and mortal woe, 
Because they ate of that cursed fruit. 

As soon as the evil one saw it was done, 
He laughed aloud, and leapt for joy. 380 


For the fall of them both, the bitter foe 

Gave thanks to his lord, that loathly thane! 

"Now have I got me thy grace and favor, 

Worked thy will, and won my reward, 

Man is betrayed for many a day; 385 

Adam and Eve forever have lost 

The love of their Lord, for leaving His word, 

His law and command. No more they shall hold 

The kingdom of heaven: to hell they shall go. 

They shall make the dark journey; no more thy sorrow 390 

Bear in thy breast, where bound thou liest; 

Nor mourn in thy mind, that men shall inherit 

The heights of heaven, the while we endure 

Labor and throes in a land of gloom. 

Because of thy pride, our cohorts fell, 395 

Hurled from the towering halls of heaven, 

Goodly abodes. For God was wroth 

Because we refused to fawn with his followers, 

Bow our heads in obeisance to Him. 

Therefore the Ruler was wroth in His heart, 400 

Hurled us to hell, in the heat of His anger; 

Flung to the flames the flower of His host, 

And then with His hands, in heaven He raised 

New seats of glory, and gave them to man. 

Blithe be thy mood, and merry thy breast! 405 

Double damage today is wrought! 

This brood of man hath missed forever 

The glory of heaven, — they go their way 

To the flames and thee. And God Himself 

Is made to suffer sorrow and loss. 410 

On Adam's head 'tis all repaid, 

With hate of his Lord and heroes' downfall, 

Mortal throes of men upon earth. 

Healed is my hurt, my heart expands. 

Wreaked are all our ancient wrongs, 415 

The lingering woe we long endured! 


Back I'll haste to the blaze of hell, 

Satan to seek, struck into chains." 

Netherward bent his way that boder of evil, 

Stooped to the gulfs of hell and the far-flung flames. 420 


(Exodus, lines 447-515) 

The host was harrowed with horror of drowning; 

Sea-death menaced their miserable souls. 

The slopes of the hill-sides were splashed with blood. 

There was woe on the waters, the waves spat gore; 

They were full of weapons, and frothed with slaughter. 5 

Back were beaten the bold Egyptians, 

Fled in fear; they were filled with terror. 

Headlong they hastened their homes to seek. 

Less bold were their boasts as the billows rolled o'er them, 

Dread welter of waves. Not one of that army 10 

Went again home, but Wyrd from behind 

Barred with billows their backward path. 

Where ways had lain, now weltered the sea, 

The swelling flood. The storm went up 

High to the heavens; hugest of uproars 15 

Darkened the sky; the dying shrieked 

With voices doomed. The Deep streamed with blood. 

Shield-walls were shattered by shock of the tempest. 

Greatest of sea-deaths engulfed the mighty, 

Captains and troops. Retreat was cut off 20 

At the ocean's brink. Their battle-shields gleamed 

High o'er their heads as the heaped-up waters 

Compassed them round, the raging flood. 

Doomed was the host, by death hemmed in, 

Suddenly trapped. The salty billows 25 


Swept with their swirling the sand from their feet ; 

As the Ocean cold to its ancient bed, 

Through winding channels the churning flood, 

Came rolling back o'er the rippled bottom, 

Swift avenger, naked and wild. 30 

With slaughter was streaked the storm-dark air; 

The bursting deep with blood-terror yawned, 

When He who made it, by Moses' hand 

Unbitted the wrath of the raging flood; 

Wide it came sweeping to swallow the foe; 35 

Foamed the waters, the fated sank; 

Earth was o'erwhelmed, the air was darkened; 

Burst the wave-walls, the bulwarks tumbled; 

The sea-towers melted, when the Mighty One smote 

The pride of the host, through the pillar of fire, 40 

With holy hand from heaven above. 

The onslaught wild of the angry main 

None might oppose. He appointed their end 

In the roaring horror. Wroth was the sea: 

Up it rose, down it smote, dealing destruction. 45 

Slaughter-blood spread, the sea-wall fell, 

Upreared on high, the handiwork of God, 

When the ocean He smote with His ancient sword, 

Felled the defence of the foam-breasted waves. 

With that death-blow deep, the doomed men slept. 50 

The army of sinners their souls gave up, 

The sea-pale host, ensnared and surrounded, 

When the dark upheaval o'erwhelmed them all, 

Hugest of wild waves. The host sank down, 

Pharaoh and his folk, the flower of Egypt 55 

Utterly perished. The enemy of God 

Soon discovered, when the sea he entered, 

That the ocean's master was mightier than he. 

By the strength of His arm He decided the battle, 

Wrathful and grim. He gave the Egyptians 60 

Thorough reward for that day's work. 


Not one of that host to his home came back; 

Of all those warriors not one returned 

To bring the news of the battle's end, 

To tell in the towns the tidings of woe, 65 

Their husbands' doom to the heroes' wives, 

How sea-death swallowed the stately host, — 

No messenger left. The Lord Almighty 

Confounded their boasting; they fought against God. 



Now hymn we aloud the Lord of Heaven, 
Praise His wisdom and wonderful power, 
The glorious works of the great Creator, 
How the Father Eternal founded this world. 
First He set for the sons of men, 
Heaven to roof them. The Holy Ruler, 
The King of mankind, then cast the foundations 
Of earth in the midst, and made thereafter 
Land for the Living, the Lord Almighty. 




(From The Crist, lines 348-377) 

Hail thou Holy One, Heaven's Ruler, 

Thou of old wert equal with the Father, 

God in the Highest, in Thy glorious home! 

No angel was yet created in heaven, 

None of the mighty unnumbered host, 5 

That keep the realms of the kingdom on high, 

Worshipping God the Wielder of majesty, 

When Thou with the Father didst first establish 

The firm foundations of the far-spread world. 

Ye share alike the Spirit of Comfort, 10 

Where ye throne on high. We therefore pray Thee 

With humble hearts, to help Thy servants. 

O Saviour Christ, we call to Thee 

To hear the cries of Thy captive people, 

Woe-entangled by wayward wills, 15 

Fettered fast by the fiends of hell, 

Cast into chains by the crew accursed, 

And held in bondage. Our hope is in Thee; 

Thou alone canst deliver Thy people. 

Help us miserable, by the might of Thy coming! 20 

Comfort us who suffer, and save us disconsolate, 

Though we have offended with our faults against Thee. 

Have mercy on Thy servants, remember our infirmities 

How we fail and falter with feeble hearts 

How shamefully we all have erred from Thy ways. 25 

No longer delay, our Lord and Redeemer, 

Come and deliver us, O King of Thy people! 


We need Thy grace, and the gift of Thy salvation, 

That henceforth more worthily we may worship Thy name, 

Walk in Thy ways, and Thy will perform. 30 


(From The Crist, lines 850-866) 

Our life is likest a long sea- voyage: 

O'er the water cold in our keels we glide, 

O'er Ocean's streams, in our stallions of the deep 

We drive afar. 'Tis a dreary waste 

Of ceaseless surges we sail across, 5 

In this wavering world, o'er wind-swept tracts 

Of open sea. Anxious the struggle, 

Ere we bring at last our barks to land, 

O'er the rough sea-ridges. Our rescue is near; 

The Son of God doth safely guide us, to 

Helps us in to our harbor of refuge; 

Shows from the deck the sheltered waters 

Where smoothly to anchor our ancient chargers, 

Hold with the hawsers our horses of the deep. 

Then fix we our hope on that haven of safety 15 

That the Prince of Glory prepared for us all, 

The Ruler on high, when He rose to heaven. 


(From The Crist, lines 867-1006) 

Lo! on a sudden, and all unlooked for, 
In the dead of the night, the day of the Lord 
Shall break tremendous on man and beast, 
O'erwhelming the world and the wide creation, 


As a ruthless robber, ranging at night, 5 

Who strides through the dark with stealthy pace, 
And suddenly springs on sleep-bound heroes, 
Greets with violence his victims unguarded. 

A mighty host on the mount of Sion 

Shall gather together glad and rejoicing 10 

The faithful of the Lord, they shall find their reward. 

With one accord from the quarters four, 

And uttermost ends of the earth at once, 

Glorious angels together shall blow 

Their shattering trumpets; the trembling earth 15 

Shall shake and sink, as they sound together, 

Piercing strong to the starry track. 

Their music swells from the South and North, 

From East and from West, o'er the world's wide round. 

They wake from the dead to the day of judgement 20 

The children of men, with their challenge dread. 

Out of their ancient earth and mold, 

Forth from their sleep profound they wake them. 

Howling with fear they shall huddle and flock, 

Moaning and groaning, aghast with terror, 25 

Bewailing the deeds that were done in the body. 

Eye hath not seen a sight more awful, 

To men shall appear no portent more dread: 

Sinners and saints in strange confusion, 

Mingled together shall mount from their graves, 30 

The bright and the black: for both shall arise, 

Some fair, some foul, as foreordained 

To different home, of devils or angels. 

From South and East o'er Sion's top, 

In sudden radiance the sun shall flame 35 

From the throne of God; more gleaming-bright, 


Than man may imagine, or mind conceive. 

Resplendent it shines, as the Son of God 

Dazzling breaks through the dome of heaven. 

Glorious appears the presence of Christ, 40 

The King as He comes through the clouds in the East, 

Merciful and mild in mind to his own, 

But with altered mood of anger toward the wicked: 

Unlike His looks for the lost and the blest. . . . {909) 

The greedy spirit of consuming flame (972) 45 

Shall leap o'er the land, and the lofty halls; 

With the terror of fire shall fill the world. 

The battle-thirsty flame shall blaze afar, 

Devouring the earth, and all therein. 

Strong-built walls shall split and crumble; 50 

Mountains shall melt, and the mighty cliffs 

That buttress the earth 'gainst battering waves, 

Bulwarks upreared 'gainst the rolling billows, 

Shall fall on a sudden. The sweep of the fire 

Shall leave no bird nor beast alive. 55 

The lurid flame shall leap along the world 

Like a raging warrior. Where the waters flowed 

In a bath of fire the fish shall be stifled; 

Sundered from life, their struggles over, 

The monsters of the deep no more shall swim. 60 

Like molten wax the water shall burn. 

More marvels shall appear than mind may conceive, 

When tempest and whirlwind o'erwhelm the earth, 

And rocks are riven by the roaring blast. 

Men shall wail, they shall weep and lament, 65 

Groan aghast with grovelling fear. 

The smoke-dark flame o'er the sinful shall roll, 

The blaze shall consume their beakers of gold, 

All the ancient heirlooms of kings. 

The shrieks of the living aloud shall resound 70 

Mid the crack of doom, their cry of fear, 


Their howl of despair, as they struggle to hide. 

No guilty wretch shall refuge find, 

Not one shall escape the scorching flame; 

On all it shall seize, as it sweeps through the world. 75 

It shall leap and run and ruthlessly bore 

In the bowels of the earth, it shall burn aloft, 

Till the ancient stains of earthly sin 

By the purging billows are burnt away. 


(Ascribed to Cynewulf) 

List to the words of a wondrous vision, 

Dream that I dreamt in the dead of night, 

When stilled in sleep were the sons of men! 

Methought on a sudden I saw a cross 

Upreared in the sky, and radiant with light. 5 

Brightest of trees, that beauteous beacon 

Was dipped in gold, and bedight with jewels: 

Four at the base, and five on the beam 

Glistened on high; 'twas no gallows-tree, 

Emblem of shame, but the souls of the blest 10 

Were gazing upon it, God's bright angels, 

The glorious creation, all kindreds of men. 

'Twas a tree of triumph, but troubled was I, 

Stained with sin, as I stood and gazed 

On the Cross of glory, aglow with light. 15 

Layers of gold, and glittering jewels 

Covered its bark, and buried the wood. 

Still through the gold that garnished its side, 

I was 'ware of wounds where once it had bled, 

Scars of a battle old. I was bowed with sorrow; 20 

But the vision filled me with fear when I saw 

That it changed its hue — now chased with gold, 

Now stained with blood and streaming wet! 


Long I lay thus, looking in sadness 

At the Saviour's Cross, when sudden I heard it 25 

Making melody, marked it singing; 

Wondrous words the wood did utter: 

"Many years ago, 

— yet I remember it all — 
Fast by a forest-side, 

they felled me where I grew, 
Severed me from my stock; 30 

strong foes took and shaped me 
For a spectacle to men; 

made me bear their criminals, 
Bore me away on their backs, 

bade me stand on a hill-top, 
Band of fiends there fixed me. 

I saw the Friend of Man, 
Haste with mighty hardihood 

to mount on high and clasp me. 
I durst not bend nor falter, 35 

nor disobey my Lord; 
Though I marked how all the earth 

with mighty tremblings shook. 
The fiends I might have felled there, 

but firm I stood unshaken. 
Then stripped the mighty hero, 

in sooth 'twas God Almighty. 
He clomb the towering cross, 

with spirit keen and daring; 
Bold in sight of the rabble, 40 

when our race he would deliver. 
I trembled as he embraced me, 

yet bow to earth I durst not, 
Nor prostrate fall with fear. 

'Stand fast,' my Lord commanded; 
I stood, a cross uplifted! 

the King of glory I carried, 


Upheld the Lord of heaven; 

my head I durst not bow. 
With gruesome nails they gored me, 45 

the gaping wounds are open; 
In bitter malice scarred me, 

strike back at the fiends I durst not. 
They mocked us both and beat us, 

with blood my sides were running, 
That flowed from the Saviour's body, 

when he bowed his head in death. 

Much I endured on that mount of woe, 

Throes and hate, for there I beheld 50 

The God of hosts, hanging outstretched. 

pall of darkness dimmed his glory, 
Shrouded his body. The shadow rushed on, 
Black under clouds, all creatures wailed; 
Christ was on the Cross; their King was dead! 55 

Soon a band I beheld, 

hastening swiftly forward, 
Comrades seeking their Lord; 

(clearly I saw it all.) 
Stricken with grief profound, 

forward I stooped to help them, 
Eagerly bending low. 

They lifted Him down from the Cross, 
Released from his bitter agony; 60 

alone they left me there, 
Standing steeped in blood, 

wounded with shafts of malice. 
They folded His weary limbs, 

and watched at the head of his body; 
Looked intent on their Lord, 

the while He took His rest, 
Forspent with heavy toil. 



Then full in sight of His slayers 
They hastened to hollow a grave, 65 

hewn from glistening marble; 
Buried the Lord of Victory, 

and chanted a lay of mourning, 
Sadly at eventide; 

then sorrowing took their leave; 
Went from the Lord of glory. 

There He rested alone. 

Long I stood, deserted by all; (70) 

At last they felled me, — fearful my fate; 70 

They dug a ditch, and deep they buried me. 

Erelong I was found by friends of my Lord, {76) 

Who straightway adorned me with silver and gold. 

Here mayest thou learn, my hero beloved, 

What woe I endured, what work of felons, 75 

What trials sore. Now the time is come 

That far and wide o'er the world I am honored. 

All kindreds of men, the mighty creation, 

Kneel to this sign. For the Son of God 

On me did surfer! This makes me glory! 80 

Sublime I am lifted aloft in the sky, 

With might to heal all men who adore me. 

Once I was set for a sign of woe, 

A mark of shame, ere I showed to men, 

Wandering lost, the way of life. 85 

God who is Lord of glory, exalted me 

High o'er the towering trees of the forest.". . . (91) 

With happy heart I hailed the cross, ( I22 ) 

Ard fervent zeal. No friend was near; 

Alone I knelt. I longed to depart; 90 

My soul was eager to start on her journey. 

Late I had lingered, my life's desire 

Was to come to the cross, the conqueror's beacon: 


More oft than other men, ever alone, 

To worship it worthily, wanting but this: 95 

To look on the cross whence cometh my help. 

Friends have I few to defend and comfort me; 

They have left the life and delight of the world; 

They have gone to greet the King of glory; 

They are folded in bliss with the Father on high; 100 

They live in the light of the Lord of angels; 

My heart beats high for the happy day 

When the cross of Christ shall come once more 

To fetch me away from this fleeting life, 

Bring me home to the bliss of heaven, 105 

Where the saints of God sit at the feast, 

Joined in raptures of joy eternal. { I 44) 

May he who suffered for the sins of men {145-156) 

On the cross of shame, show me the way, 

Guide me in grace to the goal of my hope, 1 10 

That so I may join the saints in their joy, 

And dwell forever in realms of bliss. 


(Ascribed to Cynewulf) 

Lo, I have heard of a happy land 
Far in the East, of a fair country, 
Happier fairer than earth-folk know. 
Far remote the mighty Creator 
Planted this realm, where few may reach it; 5 

Sinful mortals seek it in vain. 
Blest are those fields, abloom with the fragrance 
Of all sweet odors that earth exhales. 
Peerless the island, peerless her maker, 
Glorious the Lord who laid her foundations. 10 


Her happy people hear glad singing, 

Oft through Heaven's open door. 

Green are her woodlands, green and ample, 

Under her rainless roof outspread. 

Winter's breath or blast of fire, 15 

Driving hail or hoar-frost dreary, 

Heat of sun or cold incessant, 

Scorching noons or sleeting north-winds 

Ne'er may harm this happy island. 

Blest it lies, abloom with flowers. 20 

Ever the same through the seasons' change. 

No mountain ramparts mar those regions; 

No rugged heights, as here with us; 

No hill-sides steep, or hollows deep; 

No crags or clefts, no caves or dens; . 25 

But smoothest lawns and sunny levels 

Of joyful flowers face those skies. 

Fathoms twelve the fair land towers 

(So wise men have writ in records old) 

O'er the loftiest peak that lifts its head, 30 

Here among us, up to the skies. 

'Tis a region calm of sunny groves 

Woodlands glad, whose wondrous trees 

Stand fair and fresh in unfading hues, 

Goodly and green at God's behest. 35 

Ever the same, summer and winter, 

In living green those groves are clad, 

Laden with fruit. No leaf shall waste 

No branch be blackened with blast of lightning 

Till doomsday come. When the deluge swept 40 

With might of waters the world of men, 

And the flood o'erwhelmed the whole of earth, 

This isle withstood the storm of billows 

Serene and steadfast 'mid raging seas 

Spotless and pure by the power of God. 45 


Thus blest it abides till the bale-fire come, 

The day of doom when death's dark chambers, 

Abodes of shade, shall be broken asunder. 

No envious strife disturbs that isle; 

No tears or toil or trace of woe; 50 

Needy age, or narrow death; 

Foe's assault, or sudden end; 

No sin or sorrow, or sore distress; 

No grinding want, or wealth uncertain, 

No bitter care, or bed of pain; 55 

No wintry weather's wild encounter 

Of crashing storms, no cruel frost 

Beats any man there with icy showers. 

No sleet or snow assails that isle; 

No pelting rains pour from the clouds, 60 

Lashed by the gale; but living streams 

Wondrously gush from woodland springs, 

Lapping the earth with limpid ripples. 

Each month of the year in the midmost grove 

The winsome waters well sea-cold 65 

From the mossy turf; at the time appointed 

Wind through the wood in wandering streams. 

For God decreed that the joy of waters 

Should twelve times play through that land of plenty. 

Thick hangs the fruit in the forest-glades; 70 

The shining clusters never decay, 

The holy burden of the bending trees. 

No withered blooms are wafted down; 

No leaves are shed; but laden boughs 

Of bounteous ever-bearing trees 75 

Yield ever-fresh and fragrant fruit. 

Green are the groves on the grassy sward 

Decked and adorned by the deed of God, 

In beauty unwasting. Through the woodlands bright 

A holy fragrance floats and hovers. 80 

Changeless through ages the isle shall remain, 


Till He that uplifted the land at the first 
Shall end his wisdom's ancient work. 

A glorious bird guardeth this grove, 

Noble in flight, Phoenix by name. 85 

Alone in the land he liveth, a hermit; 

Proudly dwelleth, proof against death, 

In this wood of delight, while the world endures. 

'Tis said he watches the way of the sun, 

Eager to greet the candle of God, 90 

The gleaming gem, and joyously waits 

Till the Day-star come at dawn from the east, 

Shining bright o'er the billowy sea, 

First of lights by the Father created, 

Glorious sign of God. When the stars are gone, 95 

Dipped in the waves of the western sea, 

Or hid in the dawn, and dusky night 

Darkling departs, then poised for flight 

The strong-winged Phoenix scans the ocean, 

Sky and wave, and waits the time 100 

When the glorious light shall glide from the east 

And radiant rise o'er the rounding sea. 

This peerless bird abides by the fountain, 

Haunting ever the hallowed streams. 

Twelve times bathes in the bubbling spring, 105 

Dipping his plumes ere day arrive, 

And the twinkle of dawn; so oft he tastes 

The waters that well sea-cold, and wets 

His beak at each bath in the bourne of delight. 

Then after his water-play wings him triumphant no 

Aloft to a tree-top towering high, 

Whence in the east he may easily see 

The road of the sun, when rising clear, 

The lamp of heaven shall glitter and gleam 

O'er the welter of waves. The world is brightened, 115 

In beauty glows, as the glorious gem 


Flashes o'er ocean, inland afar, 

Lordly day-star lighting the earth. 

As soon as the sun o'er the salty streams 

On high doth soar, the haughty bird 120 

Joyfully leaves his lofty perch, 

Darting upward on dauntless wing 

And singing exultant, seeks the light. 

Glorious the greeting he giveth the sun, 

His spirit athrill with rapture of bliss; 125 

Warbling melodies wondrous sweet, 

With various art and voice more clear 

Than ever men heard the heavens beneath, 

Since the King of Glory, the great Creator, 

Established the world. More winsome far 130 

Than any music that men may make; 

And sweeter than any earthly strain, 

This trancing song. No sound of trump 

Or horn or harp; or harmonies clear 

Of organ-pipes; or purest tones 135 

Of mortal voice, or music of the swan, 

Or aught that God hath given to cheer 

Earth's heavy toil, may touch this song. 

He carols and sings in unceasing delight 

Till the sun descends in the southern sky; 140 

Then sinketh his song and silent falls. 

The beautiful bird then bows his head 

And listening alert lifteth his wings 

Beating them thrice, then bideth at rest. 

Ever he notes the turn of the hours 145 

Twelve times by day and twelve times by night. 

The lord of this grove hath leave to enjoy 

At his will the wealth of this wondrous isle, 

Life and delight in a land of plenty, 

Until he is worn with winters a thousand 150 

Of life upon earth, alone in the wood. 


Then aged and wise with the weight of years 

Hovers on high the hoary-plumed Phoenix, 

Leaves the green island and flowering plains, 

Wingeth his flight to a wide-spreading realm, 155 

A lonely and uninhabited land. 

There he inherits a kingdom mighty; 

Bold o'er the bird-tribes beareth rule; 

Lives for a season, and lords it among them, 

Glorious grown, and guardeth the realm. 160 

But soon he departs on swiftest pinions, 

Westward winging his wondrous flight; 

Thick the bird-tribes throng round their leader, 

Each of them eager to aid their lord. 

At length he comes to the coast of Syria, 165 

With his countless horde. Then harshly thrusting 

The throng away, he wheels him aside; 

Seeketh a dense wood's deepest shelter 

To hide from the crowd in the covert dark. 

Tall in the grove a great tree towers, 170 

Firmly rooted 'neath heaven's roof, 

Named from the bird, and known as the Phoenix. 

The Maker of man, the mighty Creator, 

Hath granted a glorious growth to this tree. 

I have heard that it passes in height by far 175 

The tallest tree that towers on earth; 

Its foliage fair shall flourish and thrive; 

Blight shall not touch it, its branches shall wave, 

Winsome and green while the world endures. 

When winds are laid and weather is calm, 180 

The lamp of heaven shines holy and pure; 

Clouds are scattered and skies are clear; 

The mighty surge of the sea is stilled; 

Storms are asleep and warm in the south 

Gleams the sun and gladdens the world. 185 

Then begins the bird to build in the branches, 


To furnish his nest for his hour of need, 

When his spirit's fervor shall urge him to change 

The years of his age, restoring his youth, 

And renewing his life. From near and far 190 

He gathers together the goodliest herbs; 

Blossoms and leaves he brings from the wood; 

Fills with fragrance his forest-abode; 

Culls each sweet that the King of glory, 

The Father, created o'er earth's wide realm, 195 

To charm and delight the children of men. 

So he collects the loveliest blossoms; 

Treasures bright he brings to the tree. 

Soon in the solitude's deep recess 

A winsome bower the wild bird builds him, 200 

A home in the tree-top; and houses him there, 

High aloft in the leafy shade; 

Surrounds himself with richest spices, 

Herbs the rarest that earth may yield; 

Makes for his body a bed of blossoms, 205 

Fain to depart. With folded pinions 

He watcheth on high and awaiteth his hour. 

When overhead the sun in summer 
Out of heaven hottest shines, 

The scathing heat scorches his house; 210 

The blossoms are warmed; the bower smokes 
With incense sweet, and bursts into flame; 
Bird and nest are burned together: 
The blaze is kindled, the bale-fire wraps 
In roaring flames his wretched abode, 215 

And fiercely feeds on the Phoenix hoar, 
Ancient of years. His aged body 
Is prey to the flames: his fleeting spirit, 
Hastes to its doom, when the hot blast sunders 
Flesh from bone. Yet the breath of life 220 

In the fulness of time returneth again. 
Soon as the flickering flame subsides, 


The ashes are knit and kneaded together: 

When the beautiful nest is burnt to a cinder, 

And body and bones of the bird are crumbled, 225 

In the waning glow of the whitening embers 

A ball is found, in the bed of ashes 

Rolled together, round like an apple; 

Out of it comes a curious creature, 

Wondrous in hue, as though it were hatched, 230 

Shining bright, from the shell of an egg. 

It grows in the shade to the shape of an eaglet, 

A nestling fair, then further increases, 

Lustily thriving, larger still, 

Equalling soon an eagle in size. 235 

At length he is fledged with feathers gay, 

Bright as of old with beauteous plumes, 

His body renewed by the birth of fire, 

Taint of evil all taken away. 

Like as when men in the month of harvest 240 

Gather for food the fruits of the earth; 

Garner their crops 'gainst coming of winter; 

Shelter and shield them from showers and storms, 

Laying in stores and living in plenty, 

While roaring winter rages amain, 245 

And covers the fields with coat of snow: 

Out of those winter-stores, wealth abounding 

Shall come through the germ of life in the corn, 

Cleanly sown as a seed in the spring. 

When the sun returns, the token of life, 250 

And his warm rays waken the wealth of the world, 

Sprouteth afresh each fruit of the earth, 

Each in its own kind quickened and kindled 

To brighten the field. So the Phcenix old 

After many years his youth renews; 255 

Is girt again with a garment of flesh. 

Earthly food he refuseth to touch, 

Save that he drinketh drops of honey-dew 


That often fall at midnight hour; 

Tasting nought else until he revisit 260 

His own abode and ancient home. ( 2 ^4) 

A man of God, with mind prophetic, (57°) 

Sang of old, a song inspired; 

Foretold his rising to life eternal. 

That we more readily might read the meaning 265 

Of the fate of the Phoenix, — his fiery death: 

When he brings away his body's remnant; 

Gathers the ashes and embers together, 

Clasped in his claws, and carries them off, 

Flying sunward, when the flame subsides, 270 

To the courts of the Lord, where he lives secure 

Through countless years, all young again. 

No foe infests that fair domain; 

No hardship there can harm him further. 

Thus body and soul, by the Saviour's might 275 

Joined after death, shall journey together 

To the land of delight, laden with savor 

Of incense sweet, like the soaring Phcenix, 

Where high o'er the hosts, in the city of glory, 

The Sun of Righteousness radiant streams. 280 

When^ the Saviour Christ on the souls of the Blest 

Shines from on high, toward heaven's gate 

They mount, like beautiful birds, to meet him; 

Glad is the song and glorious the shape 

Of the spirits-elect in that land of joy, 285 

Where envy and malice no more shall touch them: 

For ever and ever from evil free, 

They live in peace, apparelled in light, 

Girt with glory, by God defended, 

Like the Phcenix wondrous. The works of each, 290 

Sun-like gleam and glow in splendor, 

Bright before the face of the Lord, 


In clear abodes of blessed calm. 

The crown of glory glittering bright, 

Studded round with rarest jewels, 295 

Decks the brow of each blessed saint. 

The radiance floods their foreheads shining; 

God's diadem adorns the righteous 

With jewelled light. They live in joy 

Endless, immortal, and ever renewed, 300 

In bliss secure and clothed in beauty; 

At home with the Father of angels in heaven. 

No sorrow haunts those happy mansions; 

No danger, dread, nor days of toil; 

No parching thirst, nor pangs of hunger; 305 

No need, nor age; the noble King 

Dispenseth bounty; the spirit-host 

Praise their Redeemer, the Prince of Heaven; 

Honor and magnify the might of the Lord; 

Shouting glad, that glorious company 310 

Surround on high God's holy throne; 

Saints and angels sing triumphant, 

Worshipping God with one accord: 

" Peace be to Thee true God! Power and Wisdom! 

Thanks to Thee evermore, throned in majesty, 315 

For the gifts Thy grace doth grant us anew, 

Boundless in might, dominion and glory, 

High and holy! The heavens above, 

Abode of the angels, and the earth also, 

Father Almighty, are full of thy majesty; 320 

Thou Glory of Glories, and greatest of kings! 

Defend us Creator, Thou Father Almighty, 

And Ruler of Heaven, who reignest on high." 

Thus hymn aloud the host of the righteous, 

Cleansed from guilt, in the glorious city; 325 

Publish the praise of the Prince of Heaven; 

The choir of saints keep singing on high: 

"To Him alone belongeth all honor 


Thanksgiving and worship, world without end! 

Never His glory hath known a beginning, 330 

Though He chose to be born a child upon earth, 

Here among men, yet the might of His power 

High o'er the Heavens in Holiness dwelt 

In glory undimmed. Though death's sharp pang 

He bore on the cross, and bitter woe, 335 

The third day after the throes of his passion 

Laid low his body, He was brought to life 

By the Father's grace. So the Phcenix stands 

For a sign of the power of the Son of God, 

When he wakes to the life of life from his ashes, 340 

Girt with limbs in the glory of youth. 

Thus by the sundring of soul and body, 

To life everlasting our Lord did help us, 

Even as the Phcenix, eager for flight, 

Loadeth his wings with winsome herbs, 345 

And sweetest blossoms that bloom upon earth." 

Such is the burden, as scriptures tell us, 

The songs of the saints whose souls have departed 

On the heavenward journey, to the joy of joys 

And the God of grace. For a gift to the Lord 350 

They bring a sweet-smelling savor on high 

Of words and works, in that world of bliss 

And radiant life. Render to Him 

Praise and Honor, Power and Glory; 

Worship and Wisdom, World without end, 355 

In heaven above. He only is King 

Of earth's wide round, and the realms of light, 

With splendor girt in that glorious city. 

Leave hath granted us lucis auctor, 

That here we might merueri; 360 

By good deeds gain gaudia in celo; 

That so we men maxima regna 

Might reach, and sit sedibus altis; 


Live in delight lucis et pads; 

Enter our home almce letitice; 365 

In bliss immortal, blandem et mitem 

See our Saviour sine fine; 

Prolong his praises laude perenne, 

In bliss with the Angels. Alleluia. 



Many a lonely man at last comes to honor 

Merits God's mercy, though much he endured 

On wintry seas, with woe in his heart, 

Dragging his oar through drenching-cold brine, 

Homeless and houseless and hunted by Wyrd. 5 

These are the words of a way-faring wanderer, 
This is his song of the sorrow of life, 
Slaughter of foemen, felling of kinsmen: 

Often alone in the dark before dawning, 

All to myself my sorrow I tell. 10 

Friend have I none to whom I may open 

My heart's deep secret, my hidden spring of woe. 

Well do I know 'tis the way of the high-born, 

Fast in his heart to fetter his feelings, 

Lock his unhappiness in the hold of his mind. 15 

Spirit that sorrows withstandeth not destiny, 

Heart that complaineth plucketh no help. 

A haughty hero will hide his suffering, 

Manfully master misery's pang. 

Thus stricken with sorrow, stript of my heritage, 20 

Far from kinsmen and country and friends, 


Grimly I grappled my grief to my bosom, 

Since long time ago, my giver of bounty 

Was laid in the earth, and left me to roam 

Watery wastes, with winter in my heart. 25 

Forsaken I sought a shielder and protector; 

Far and near I found none to greet the wanderer, 

No master to make him welcome in his wine-hall; 

None to cheer the cheerless, or the friendless to befriend. 

He who has lost all his loved companions 30 

Knoweth how bitter a bedfellow is sorrow. 

Loneliness his lot, not lordly gold, 

Heart-chilling frost, not harvest of plenty. 

Oft he remembers the mirth of the mead-hall, 

Yearns for the days of his youth, when his dear lord 35 

Filled him with abundance. Faded are those joys! 

He shall know them no more; no more shall he listen 

To the voice of his lord, his leader and counsellor. 

Sometimes sleep and sorrow together 

Gently enfold the joyless wanderer: 40 

Bright are his dreams, he embraces his lord again, 

Kisses his liege, and lays on his knee 

Head and hands as in happy days, 

When he thanked for a boon his bountiful giver. 

Wakes with a start the homeless wanderer; 45 

Nought he beholds but the heaving surges, 

Seagulls dipping and spreading their wings, 

Scurries of snow and the scudding hail. 

Then his heart is all the heavier, 

Sore after sweet dreams sorrow reviveth. 50 

Fain would he hold the forms of his kinsmen, 

Longingly leans to them, lovingly greets them; 

Slowly their faces swim into distance; 

No familiar greeting comes from the fleeting 

Companies of kinsmen. Care ever shadows 55 


The way of the traveller, whose track is on the waters, 
Whose path is on the billows of the boundless deep. 

Surely I see not how I should keep 

My heart from sinking, heavy with sorrow, 

When all life's destiny deeply I ponder, — 60 

Men that are suddenly snatched in their prime, 

High-souled heroes; so the whole of this earth 

Day by day droopeth and sinketh to decay. . . (63) 

How dread is the doom of the last desolation, (73) 

When all the wealth of the world shall be waste, 65 

He that is wise may learn, if he looks 

Abroad o'er this land, where lonely and ruinous, 

Wind-swept walls, waste are standing; 

Tottering towers, crusted with frost, 

Crumbling wine-halls, bare to the sky. 70 

Dead is their revelry, dust are the revellers! 

Some they have fallen on far fields of battle, 

Some have gone down in ships on the sea; 

Some were the prey of the prowling gray-wolf, 

Some by their loved ones were laid in the earth. 75 

The Lord of the living hath levelled their mansions, 

Silenced the sound of the singing and laughter. 

Empty and bare are all their habitations, 

Wondrous works of the giants of old. 

He that considers this scene of desolation, 80 

And this dark life deeply doth ponder, — 
Battle and blood-shed, burning and slaughter, 
It bringeth to mind, and mournfully he asks: 
Where is the warrior, where is the war-horse? 
Where is the giver of bounty, where are the boon- 
companions, 85 
The "dream and the gleam" that gladdened the hall? 
Alas the bright ale-cup, alas the brave warrior! 
Alas the pride of princes! Their prime is no more; 


Sunk under night's shadow, as though it never had been! 
Where lusty warriors thronged, this lone wall towers, 90 
Weird with dragon-shapes, wondrously carven; 
Storm of ash-spears hath stricken the heroes, 
Blood-thirsty weapons, Wyrd the supreme. 
Wintry blasts now buffet these battlements; 
Dreary snow-storms drift up the earth, 95 

The terror of winter when wild and wan 
Down from the north with the darkness drives 
The ruinous scourge of the ruthless hail. 

All this life is labor and sorrow, 

Doom of destiny darkens o'er earth. 100 

Wealth is fleeting, friends are fleeting, 

Man is fleeting, maid is fleeting, 

All this earth's foundations utterly shall pass. (1 10) 


The poem translated below, has been interpreted as a dialogue 
between a weather-beaten old sailor and a youth eager to go to 
sea. The parts are not assigned in the original MS., and the 
only warrant for our dialogue form lies in the structure of the 
poem itself. 

The Old Sailor: 

True is the tale that I tell of my travels, 

Sing of my sea-faring sorrows and woes; 

Hunger and hardship's heaviest burdens, 

Tempest and terrible toil of the deep, 

Daily I've borne on the deck of my boat. 5 

Fearful the welter of waves that encompassed me, 

Watching at night on the narrow bow, 

As she drove by the rocks, and drenched me with spray. 

Fast to the deck my feet were frozen, 


Gripped by the cold, while care's hot surges 10 

My heart o'erwhelmed, and hunger's pangs 
Sapped the strength of my sea-weary spirit. 

Little he knows whose lot is happy, 

Who lives at ease in the lap of the earth, 

How, sick at heart, o'er icy seas, 15 

Wretched I ranged the winter through, 

Bare of joys, and banished from friends, 

Hung with icicles, stung by hail-stones. 

Nought I heard but the hollow boom 

Of wintry waves, or the wild swan's whoop. 20 

For singing I had the solan's scream; 

For peals of laughter, the yelp of the seal; 

The sea-mew's cry, for the mirth of the mead-hall. 

Shrill through the roar of the shrieking gale 

Lashing along the sea- cliff's edge, 25 

Pierces the ice- plumed petrel's defiance, 

And the wet-winged eagle's answering scream. 

Little he dreams that drinks life's pleasure, 

By danger untouched in the shelter of towns 

Insolent and wine -proud, how utterly weary 30 

Oft I wintered on open seas. 

Night fell black, from the north it snowed 

Harvest of hail. 

The Youth: 

Oh wildly my heart 
Beats in my bosom and bids me to try 35 

The tumble and surge of seas tumultuous, 
Breeze and brine and the breakers' roar. 
Daily hourly drives me my spirit 
Outward to sail, far countries to see. 
Liveth no man so large in his soul, 40 

So gracious in giving, so gay in his youth, 


In deeds so daring, so dear to his lord, 

But frets his soul for his sea-adventure, 

Fain to try what fortune shall send. 

Harping he heeds not, nor hoarding of treasure; 45 

Nor woman can win him, nor joys of the world. 

Nothing doth please but the plunging billows; 

Ever he longs, who is lured by the sea. 

Woods are abloom, the wide world awakens, 

Gay are the mansions, the meadows most fair; 50 

These are but warnings, that haste on his journey 

Him whose heart is hungry to taste 

The perils and pleasures of the pathless deep. 

The Old Sailor: 

Hearest the cuckoo mournfully calling? 

The summer's watchman sorrow forbodes. 55 

What does the landsman that wantons in luxury, 

What does he reck of the rough sea's woe, 

The cares of the exile, whose keel has explored 

The uttermost parts of the Ocean-ways! 

The Youth: 

Sudden my soul starts from her prison-house, 60 

Soareth afar o'er the sounding main; 

Hovers on high, o'er the home of the whale; 

Back to me darts the bird-sprite and beckons, 

Winging her way o'er woodland and plain, 

Hungry to roam, and bring me where glisten 65 

Glorious tracts of glimmering foam. 

This life on land is lingering death to me, 

Give me the gladness of God's great sea. [66] 



An exile from his country sends to his wife overseas a message, 
bidding her join him in his new home where he has prospered. 
The letters are cut on a tablet of wood, and the wood itself is sup- 
posed to speak. Compare the Vision of the Cross, and the Riddles 
for this kind of dramatic personification. 

See I bring thee a secret message! 

A sapling once in the woods I grew; 

I was cut for a stave and covered with writing; 

Skilled men cunningly carved upon me 

Letters fair, in a faraway land. 5 

Since have I crossed the salt-streams often, 

Carried in ships to countries strange; 

Sent by my lord, his speech to deliver 

In many a towering mead-hall high. 

Hither I've sped, the swift keel brought me, 10 

Trial to make of thy trust in my master; 

Look thou shalt find him loyal and true. 

He told me to come, that carved this letter, 

And bid thee recall, in thy costly array, 

The pledges ye plighted, the promises true 15 

Ye gave to each other in days of old, 

When still in the land ye lived together, 

Happily mated, and held in the mead-halls 

Your home and abode. A bitter feud 

Banished him far. He bids me call thee, 20 

Earnestly urge thee overseas. 

When thou hast heard, from the brow of the hill, 

The mournful cuckoo call in the wood, 

Let no man living delay thy departure, 

Hinder thy going, or hold thee at home. 25 

Away to the sea, where the gulls are circling! 


Board me a ship that's bound from the shore: 
Sail away South, to seek thy own husband: 
Over the water he waits for thee. 

No keener joy could come to his heart, 30 

No greater happiness gladden his soul, 

Than if God who wieldeth the world, should grant 

That ye together should yet give rings, 

Treasure of gold to trusty liegemen. 

A home he hath found in a foreign land, 35 

Fair abode and followers true, 

Hardy heroes, though hence he was driven; 

Shoved his boat from the shore in distress, 

Steered for the open, sped o'er the ocean, 

Weary wave-tossed wanderer he. 40 

Past are his woes, he has won through his perils, 

He lives in plenty, no pleasure he lacks; 

Nor horses nor goods nor gold of the mead-hall; 

All the wealth of earls upon earth 

Belongs to my lord, he lacks but thee. 45 



A moth ate a word! To me that seemed 

A strange thing to happen, when I heard that 

wonder, — 
A worm that would swallow the speech of a man, 
Sayings of strength steal in the dark, 
Thoughts of the mighty; yet the thieving sprite 
Was none the wiser for the words he had eaten! 



There's a troop of tiny folk travelling swift, 
Brought by the breeze o'er the brink of the hill, 
Buzzing black-coated bold little people,— 
Noisy musicians; well-known is their song. 
They scour the thickets, but sometimes invade 
The rooms of the town. Now tell me their names. 


Wounded I am, and weary with fighting; 
Gashed by the iron, gored by the point of it, 
Sick of battle-work, battered and scarred. 
Many a fearful fight have I seen, when 
Hope there was none, or help in the thick of it, 
Ere I was down and foredone in the fray. 
Offspring of hammers, hardest of battle-blades, 
Smithied in forges, fell on me savagely, 
Doomed .to bear the brunt and the shock of it, 
Fierce encounter of clashing foes. 
Leech cannot heal my hurts with his simples, 
Salves for my sores have I sought in vain. 
Blade-cuts dolorous, deep in the side of me, 
Daily and nightly redouble my wounds. 


(or Barnacle- Goose) 

I'm found under water held fast by my mouth, 
Swirl of the sea-tides goes sweeping beneath me. 
Fathom-deep sunk under surges I grew. 
Bending roof of billows above me: 


My body adrift on a floating beam. 5 

You'll find me alive if you lift me and free me. 
Dull is my coat as I come from the deep, 
But straight I am decked with streamers of white, 
Bright when the freshening breeze brings me from 

Heaves me up and urges me far 10 

O'er the seal-bath salty. Say what I'm called. 


I'm prized by men, in the meadows I'm found, 

Gathered on hill-sides and hunted in groves; 

From dale and from down by day I am brought. 

Airy wings carry me, cunningly store me, 

Hoarding me safe. Yet soon men take me; 5 

Drained into vats, I'm dangerous grown. 

I tie up my victim, and trip him, and throw him; 

Often I floor a foolish old churl. 

Who wrestles with me, and rashly would measure 

His strength against mine, will straightway find himself 

Flung to the ground, flat on his back, 11 

Unless he leave his folly in time, 

Put from his senses and power of speech, 

Robbed of his might, bereft of his mind, 

Of his hands and feet. Now find me my name, 15 

Who can bind and enslave men so upon earth, 

And bring fools low in broad daylight. 


I war with the wind, with the waves I wrestle; 

I must battle with both when the bottom I seek, 

My strange habitation by surges o'er-roofed. 

I am strong in the strife, while still I remain; 

As soon as I stir, they are stronger than I. 5 


They wrench and they wrest, till I run from my foes; 

What was put in my keeping they carry away. 

If my back be not broken, I baffle them still; 

The rocks are my helpers, when hard I am pressed; 

Grimly I grip them. Guess what I'm called. 10 


My beak is below, I burrow and rose 

Under the ground. I go as I'm guided 

By my master the farmer, old foe of the forest; 

Bent and bowed, at my back he walks, 

Forward pushing me over the field; 5 

Sows on my path where I've passed along. 

I came from the wood, a wagon carried me; 

I was fitted with skill, I am full of wonders. 

As grubbing I go, there's green on one side, 

But black on the other my path is seen. 10 

A curious prong pierces my back; 

Under me hangs another in front, 

And forward pointing is fixed to my head. 

I tear and gash the ground with my teeth 

If my master steer me with skill from behind. 15 


(From the Cotton MS.) 

The king shall rule his kingdom; castles are seen from afar, 
Reared by giants they rise in the land, 
Wondrous walls of masonry. Wind is swiftest aloft; 
Far is the thunder heard. Fair are the glories of Christ. 
Wyrd is strongest, Winter is coldest, 5 

Lent is hoariest, 'tis latest cold. 
Harvest is merriest, to men it brings 
Fruits of the year, furnished by God. 


Truth is plainest. Treasure is dearest, 

Gold to the children of men. Gray hairs are wisest: 10 

Who longest hath lived hath learned the most. 

Troubles shall cleave. Clouds shall dissolve. 

Comrades good shall encourage an setheling 

To be brave in the fight, and free of his gold. 

Earls shall be daring. Iron shall ring 15 

Against helmet in battle. Hooded, the falcon 

Shall keep his wildness. Wolf in the forest 

Shall outlaw be. Boar in the thicket 

Shall tear with his tusks. Trusty earl 

To praise shall aspire. Spear for the hand, 20 

Gold-adorned javelin. Jewel in ring 

Shall richly be set. River with sea 

Shall mingle its stream. Mast in the ship, 

Sail on the yard, sword in the breast 

Iron that is doughty. Dragon in the cave 25 

Fierce o'er his treasure. Fish in the water 

Shall spawn its kind. King in the hall 

Shall bracelets bestow. Bear on the heath 

Surly shall roam. Stream from the hill-side 

Gray shall gush. Together shall stand 30 

Troops of comrades. Truth in an earl, 

In councillors wisdom. The woods shall bloom 

With brightest hues; hills shall stand 

Green on the earth. God is in heaven, 

To judge our deeds. Door for the hall, 35 

The building's mouth. Boss for the shield, 

Fingers to fend. Fowls in the air 

Shall sport and play. Salmon in the pool 

Shall dart and shoot. Showers from the skies 

Windy and wet on the world shall fall. 40 

Thief shall stalk in the dark. Giant shall dwell on the fen, 

Alone on the moorland. Maid shall in secret 

Go to her friend, if she fail to be bought 

With gold before her folk. The flood shall be salt, 


Waves of the ocean that wash the land, 45 

And break on the shores. The beast of the field 

Shall breed and bring forth. Bright in the heavens 

Stars shall glitter, as God hath bid them. 

Good against evil; youth against age; 

Light against dark; life against death; 50 

Host against host shall harry the land, 

Foe against foe with feud shall come, 

Stirring up strife. The sage shall ponder 

This warring world. The "wolf" shall hang, 

Pay for the wrong he wrought upon earth, 55 

His guilt among men; God alone knows 

The place that his soul shall seek hereafter, 

Bourne of the spirits that speed to their Maker, 

When the stroke of death hath sent them to God, 

Where they wait for their doom. Dark is the future, 60 

Dark and hidden! He alone knows, 

Our Helper in need; for none comes hither, 

Revisits his home to reveal to men 

What manner of mansions the Almighty inhabits, 

What seats of glory are God's abode. 65 

(From the Exeter Book) 

As the sea is smooth when storms are at rest, {55-56) 

So people are quiet when peace is proclaimed. 

Ship shall be nailed, shield shall be bound (94) 

Lindenwood decked. Dear to the Frisian wife, 

And welcome the sailor that stands at the door. 5 

Home is her husband, his boat's in the harbor; 

She bids him in, her own provider; 

She washes his weedy coat; she gets him garments fresh. 

'Tis dear on the land where a loved one is waiting. 

Wife shall be true to the man she hath wedded. 10 

Faithful are many, but many are froward, 


They will love a stranger when their lord is away. 

Long doth the seaman stay on his voyage, 

Weary the wife that waits her dear one. 

Though bitter her lot, she bideth her hour; 15 

Safe again home she shall see her husband 

Unless he is lying, lost and sunken, 

Locked in the arms of the ocean vast. ( I0 7) 

Hapless outlaws shall house with the wolves; (147) 
The treacherous beasts oft tear their comrade. 20 

When the gray-wolf kills, there are graves to be filled, 
His howls are heard as hungry he roams, 
Prowling for prey; no pity in his wail 
For men he has murdered; he is greedy for more. 

Prudent counsels are becoming to men. (166) 25 

To the gleeman his song, to the sage his wisdom. 

As many men, so many minds: 

Separate thanes have separate thoughts. 

He longeth the least that hath store of lays, 

Or with hands of skill can strike the harp, 30 

On whom God hath bestowed the gift of song. 

Wretched who lives alone in the world 

Doomed by fate to dwell without friends; 

'Twere better he had a brother in his house, 

Both men sons of the self-same father. {176) 35 

There's sport on the ship when she runs under sail (186) 
'Tis weary work against wind to row. 
They call him a coward and craven shirk, 
Whose oar is aboard with blade unwetted. 



(From the Exeter Book) 

Full oft by the grace of God it happens 

To man and woman in wedlock joined, 

A child is born. They cherish it fondly, 

Tend and teach it, till the time is come, 

When the little one's limbs, in the lapse of years, 5 

Have sturdy grown, and gained their strength. 

So father and mother fondly rear it, 

Nourish and guard it. But God alone knows 

The gift of the years to the growing child. 

Sudden death is the doom of one, 10 

Snatched away in the spring of his youth 

By a violent end, devoured by wolves 

That range the heath: Her unhappy child 

The mother bemoans, but man may not change it. 

One shall famine slay; another the flood sweep away!i5 

One shall the battle break; another the bolt o'ertake! 

One shall in darkness drear drag out his life, 

Groping to feel where his foot may stand. 

Stricken with palsy in smew and limb, 

Another shall grieve and groan at his fate. 20 

One shall fall from a forest tree: 

Fearful he wheels in wingless flight, 

Spins through the air and swoops to the ground; 

From the crown of the trunk he crashes to earth, 

Stunned and senseless, all still he lies 25 

On the straggling roots, his soul is fled! 

One shall wander, weary and foot-sore, 
Far through the world, famished and needy, 
Trudging at dawn along dewy trails, 


In a land unloved and an alien soil. 30 

Few are alive to befriend the wanderer, 

Ever unwelcome his eyes of woe. 

High on the gallows shall hang another, 

Dangle and strangle till he stiffen in death. 

Bloody-beaked birds on his body shall prey; 35 

The plundering raven shall pluck out his eyes, 

Tear and claw the carcass to shreds. 

Helpless he hangs, — his hands avail not 

To ward off the scavengers that swoop through the air. 

Hope-of-life has left that livid corpse; 40 

Senseless and stark he suffers his Wyrd, 

Drowned in the death-mist: doom of the criminal. 

One shall be burnt in the weltering blaze; 

Flames shall devour their fated victim, 

Swift and sudden his sundering from life 45 

In the lurid glow. Loud wails the mother, 

As she watches the flames enfolding her darling. 

One shall be slain as he sits on the mead-bench, 

Ale-brawl ended by edge of the sword: 

The drunkard's folly, — too forward his tongue! (50) 50 

So the Lord Almighty allots unto men L64) 

Manifold fortunes o'er the face of the earth; 
Dealeth their dole, their destiny holds. 
To some he gives wealth, to some he gives woe, 
Gladness of youth to some, to others glory in battle, 55 
Strength in the war-play with spear and with bow- 
Fame and honor; to others he gives 
Skill in the game of the checkered board. 
Some become learned in lore of books. 
Some have the gift of working in gold: 60 

Of beaten metal they make bright ornaments, 
And get broad lands from their lord in return, 


Receive them with joy from the generous king. 

One shall wait upon wassailing comrades. 

Gladden the hearts of heroes carousing, 65 

Large is their joy as they laugh at the revels. 

One shall be found at the feet of his lord; 

With his harp he shall win a harvest of wealth; 

Quickly he tightens the twangling strings, 

They ring and they swing as his spur-shod finger 70 

Dances across them: deftly he plays. 

Another shall tame the towering falcon, 

Hawk in hand, till the haughty flier 

Grows meek and gentle; he makes him jesses, 

Feeds in fetters the feather-proud bird, 75 

With dainty morsels, the dauntless soarer, 

Until the wild one is weakened and humbled, 

Belled and tasselled, obeys his master 

Hooded and tamed and trained to his hand. 

So marvelously God in his might bestows 80 

Skill upon men in many lands, 

Shaping their lives, and allotting their fortunes 

To dwellers on earth of every kin. 

Let each man render Him honor and praise 

For the gifts His grace hath granted to mortals. 85 



(From the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 937 A. D.) 

^Ethelstan Lord, and leader of earls, 
Gold-friend of heroes, he with his brother 
Edmund iEtheling, agelong glory 
Won in war with weapons keen 


By Brunnanburg. They broke the shield- wall; 5 

With offspring of hammers they hewed the lindenwoods, 

Heirs of Edward. Oft had they driven 

The foe from the land, and foiled the invader, 

True to their blood in battle defending 

Their hoard and their home. Huge was the slaughter 10 

They made of the boat-crews and bands of the Scotsmen. 

Doomed men fell. The field was drenched; 

Ran with the blood of the bravest fighters 

From rise of the sun, when the radiant day-star, 

Bright candle of God, came in the morning-tide 15 

Gliding o'er earth, till the glorious creature 

Sank to its setting. The slain lay thick; 

Maimed by the spear lay many a Northman, 

Shot over shield; shattered and war-spent, 

Many a Scot. But the men of Wessex 20 

Drove all day the Dane-folk before them; 

Hung on the trail of the troop that they hated; 

Hewed from behind the host of the pirates, 

With weapons new-whetted. Not one of the rovers 

W T ho came with Anlaf across the water 25 

Aboard his war-ship, bound for our shores, 

Fated to fall, found that the Mercian 

Refused him hand-play. Five young chieftains 

Lay stretched on the field. Seven great earls 

Of Anlaf were killed, and countless others 30 

Of boatmen and Scotsmen. Barely escaped 

The Northern leader. Leaving in haste, 

With a handful of men, he made for his ship. 

They cleared the craft, the king put out 

On the fallow flood. He fled for his life. 35 

Also the cunning Constantinus 

Home again stole to his haunts in the north. 

Little ground had the gray old leader 

To brag and to boast of the battle-encounter, 

Stripped of his clansmen killed in the slaughter. 40 


Alone he returned, his own son dead, 

Left on the battle-field, bloody and mangled, 

Brave young warrior. No bragging for him, 

Grisly old traitor, of glorious sword-play; 

Little for him or Anlaf to laugh about, 45 

In midst of the wreck of their mighty array. 

No boasting for them that they had the better 

In the crashing of helmets, the heat of the conflict; 

The splintering of spears, the struggle of heroes; 

The grinding of weapons, the game of battle 50 

They chose to play with the children of Edward. 

So parted the Northmen on their nail-studded ships, 

Blood-reddened wreck and remnant of lances; 

Sailed o'er the deep again, Dublin to seek, 

And the shores of Ireland, shamed and defeated. 55 

Back to their Wessex home, went the two brothers; 

King and iEtheling, came to their own again; 

Victors in triumph returned from the war; 

Leaving behind, the horn-billed raven 

The gloomy-coated, to glut on the carcasses; 60 

Leaving behind, the white-tailed eagle 

Perched on the corpses to prey on the carrion; 

Leaving behind, the haggard kite, 

And the gray-wolf gaunt to gorge on the slain. 

Never was made a mightier slaughter; 65 

Never sword reaped a ruddier harvest 
Of high-born heroes, here in this island, 
Since hither of old, Angles and Saxons, 
— So say the chronicles, — sailed from the Eastward, 
Crossed o'er the billows, to conquer the Britons; 70 

When haughty battle-smiths hammered the Welshmen 
And honor-keen earls first entered this realm. 



(991 A. D.) 

The beginning of the poem is lost. The first sixteen lines of 
the remaining portion describe how Byrhtnoth's men, arrived at 
the battle field, dismount and turn their horses loose, how one of 
them sends his hawk flying to the wood, and how the East Saxon 
alderman proceeds to marshal his band on the banks of the 
stream. The poem continues as follows: 

Byrhtnoth encouraged his comrades heartily; (17) 
Rode through the ranks and roused their spirits; 
Marshalled his men to meet the onset; 
Showed them how they should hold their shields 
Firm in their grip, and fearless stand. 5 

When he had briskly whetted their courage, 
He leaped from his steed and stood with his people, 
His hearth-band beloved and house-hold thanes. 

Then strode to the strand a stalwart Northman, 

The viking herald. They heard him shout, 10 

Send o'er the tide the taunt of the pirates; 

Hailing the earl, he hurled this challenge: 

"Bold sea-rovers bade me tell thee 

Straightway thou must send them tribute, 

Rings for ransome, royal treasure; 15 

Better with gifts ye buy us off, 

Ere we deal hard blows and death in battle. 

Why spill we blood when the bargain is easy? 

Give us the pay and we grant ye peace. 

If thou dost agree, who art greatest here, 20 

To ransom thy folk with the fee we demand, 

And give to the seamen the gold they ask, 

Pay with tribute for treaty of peace, 


We load the booty aboard our ships, 

Haul to sea and hold the truce." 25 

Byrhtnoth spake, he brandished his spear, 

Lifted his shield and shouted aloud, 

Grim was his wrath as he gave them his answer: 

"Hearest thou pirate my people's reply? 

Ancient swords they will send for ransom; 30 

Poison-tipped points they will pay for tribute; 

Treasure that scarce will serve you in battle. 

Go back pirate, give them my answer; 

Bring them this word of bitter defiance; 

Tell them here standeth, stern and intrepid. 35 

The earl with his folk, to defend his country; 

yEthelred's realm, the rights of my lord, 

His house and his home; the heathen shall fall, 

Pirates and robbers. My people were shamed 

If ye loaded our booty aboard your ships, 40 

And floated them off unfought, to sea, 

Having sailed so far, to set foot on our soil. 

Not all so easily earn ye our goid! 

Sword-blades and spear-pomts we sell you first; 

Battle-play grim, ere ye get our tribute!" 45 

Forward he told his troop to come, 

To step under shield and stand by the shore. 

The breadth of the stream kept the bands asunder; 

Strong came flowing the flood after ebb, 

Filled the channel, and foamed between them. 50 

Impatient stood by Panta stream, 

East-Saxon host and horde of the pirates, 

Longing to lock their lances in battle. 

Neither could harass or harm the other, 

Save that some fell by the flight of arrows. 55 

Down went the tide, the Danes were ready; 
Burned for battle the band of the Vikings; 


On the bridge stood Wulfstan and barred their way. 

Byrhtnoth sent him, a seasoned warrior, 

Ceola's son, with his kinsmen to hold it. 60 

The first of the Vikings who ventured to set 

Foot on the bridge, he felled with his spear. 

Two sturdy warriors stood with Wulfstan, 

Maccus and ^Elfhere, mighty pair, 

Kept the approach where the crossing was shallow; 65 

Defended the bridge, and fought with the boldest, 

As long as their hands could lift a sword. 

When the strangers discovered and clearly saw 

What bitter fighters the bridgewards proved, 

They tried a trick, the treacherous robbers, 70 

Begged they might cross and bring their crews 

Over the shallows and up to the shore. 

The earl was ready in reckless daring 

To let them land too great a number. 

Byrhthelm's son, while the seamen listened, 75 

Called across, o'er the cold water: 

"Come ye seamen, come and fight us! 

We give you ground, but God alone knows 

Who to-day shall hold the field." 

Strode the battle-wolves bold through the water; 80 

West over Panta waded the pirates; 

Carried their shields o'er the shining waves; 

Safely their lindenwoods landed the sailors. 

Byrhtnoth awaited them, braced for the onslaught, 

Haughty and bold at the head of his band. 85 

Bade them build the bristling war-hedge, 

Shield against shield, to shatter the enemy. 

Near was the battle, now for the glory, 

Now for the death of the doomed in the field. 

Swelled the war-cry, circled the ravens, 90 

Screamed the eagle, eager for prey; 

Sped from the hand the hard-forged spear-head, 


Showers of darts, sharp from the grind-stone. 

Bows, were busy, bolt stuck in buckler; 

Bitter the battle-rush, brave men fell, 95 

Heroes on either hand hurt in the fray. 

Wounded was Wulfmaer, went to his battle-rest; 

Cruelly mangled, kinsman of Byrhtnoth, 

Son of his sister, slain on the field. 

Pay of vengeance they paid the Vikings; 100 

I heard of the deed of the doughty Edward: 

He struck with his sword a stroke that was mighty, 

Down fell the doomed man, dead at his feet. 

For this the thane got the thanks of his leader, 

Praise that was due for his prowess in fight. 105 

Grimly they held their ground in the battle, 

Strove with each other the stout-hearted heroes, 

Strove with each other, eager to strike 

First with their darts the foe that was doomed. 

Warriors thronged, the wounded lay thick. no 

Stalwart and steady they stood about Byrhtnoth. 

Bravely he heartened them, bade them to win 

Glory in battle by beating the Danes. 

Raising his shield, he rushed at the enemy; 

Covered by buckler, he came at a Viking; 115 

Charged him furious, earl against churl, 

Each for the other had evil in store. 

The sailorman sent from the south a javelin, 

Sorely wounding the war-band's leader; 

He shoved with his shield, the shaft snapped short; 120 

The spear was splintered and sprang against him; 

Wroth was Byrhtnoth, reached for his weapon; 

Gored the Viking that gave him the wound. 

Straight went the lance, strong was the leader; 

He thrust it sheer through the throat of the pirate. 125 

His dart meant death, so deadly his aim. 

Swiftly he sent him a second javelin, 


That crashed through the corslet and cleft his bosom, 
Wounded him sore through his woven mail; 
The poisonous spear-head stood in his heart. 130 

Blithe was the leader, laughed in his breast, 
Thanked his Lord for that day's work. 

Now one of the pirates poised his weapon; 

Sped from his hand a spear that wounded 

Through and through the thane of ^Ethelred. 135 

There stood at his side a stripling youth; 

Brave was the boy; he bent o'er his lord, 

Drew from his body the blood-dripping dart. 

'Twas Wulfmaer the youthful, son of Wulfstan; 

Back he hurled the hard-forged spear. 140 

In went the point, to earth fell the pirate 

Who gave his master the mortal hurt. 

A crafty seaman crept toward the earl 

Eager to rob his armor and rings, 

His bracelets and gear and graven sword. 145 

Then Byrhtnoth drew his blade from the sheath, 

Broad and blood-rusted, struck at the breast-plate. 

But one of the seamen stopped the warrior, 

Beat down the arm of the earl with his lance. 

Fell to the ground the gray-hilted sword; 150 

No more he might grasp his goodly blade, 

Wield his weapon; yet words he could utter; 

The hoar-headed warrior heartened his men; 

Bade them forward to fare and be brave. 

When the stricken leader no longer could stand, 155 

He looked to heaven and lifted his voice: 

"I render Thee thanks O Ruler of men, 

For the joys Thou hast given, that gladdened my life. 

Merciful Maker, now most I need, 

Thy goodness to grant me a gracious end, 160 

That my soul may swiftly speed to Thee, 

Come to Thy keeping, O King of angels, 


Depart in peace. I pray Thee Lord 

That the fiends of hell may not harm my spirit." 

The heathen pirates then hewed him to pieces, 165 

And both the brave men that by him stood; 

/Elfnoth and Wulfmasr, wounded to death, 

Gave their lives for their lord in the fight. 

Then quitted the field the cowards and faint-hearts; 

The son of Odda started the flight. 170 

Godric abandoned his good lord in battle, 

Who many a steed had bestowed on his thane. 

Leaped on the horse that belonged to his leader, 

Not his were the trappings, he had no right to them. 

Both of his brothers basely fled with him, 175 

Godwin and Godwy, forgetful of honor, 

Turned from the fight, and fled to the woods, 

Seeking the cover, and saving their lives. 

Those were with them, who would have remained 

Had they remembered how many favors 180 

Their lord had done them in days of old. 

OfTa foretold it, what time he arose 

To speak where they met to muster their forces. 

Many, he said, were mighty in words 

Whose courage would fail when it came to the fighting. 

There lay on the field the lord of the people, 186 

^Ethelred's earl; all of them saw him, 

His hearth-companions beheld him dead. 

Forward went fighting the fearless warriors, 

Their courage was kindled, no cowards were they; 

Their will was fixed on one or the other: 191 

To lose their life, or avenge their leader 

^Elfwine spoke to them, son of /Elfric, 

Youthful in years, but unyielding in battle; 

Roused their courage, and called them to honor: 

" Remember the time when we talked in the mead-hall, 


When bold on our benches we boasted our valor, 

Deeds of daring we'd do in the battle! 

Now we may prove whose prowess is true. 

My birth and my breeding I boldly proclaim: 200 

I am sprung from a mighty Mercian line. 

Aldhelm the alderman, honored and prosperous, 

He was my grandsire, great was his fame: 

My people who know me shall never reproach me, 

Say I was ready to run from the battle, 205 

Go back to my home, and abandon my leader, 

Slain on the field. My sorrow is double, 

Both kinsman and lord I've lost in the fight." 

Forward he threw himself, thirsting for vengeance; 

Sent his javelin straight at a pirate. 210 

Fell with a crash his foe to the earth, 

His life-days ended. Then onward he strode, 

Urging his comrades to keep in the thick of it. 

Up spake Offa, with ashen spear lifted: 

"Well hast thou counselled us, well hast encouraged, 

Noble ^Ifwine, needs must we follow thee. 216 

Now that our leader lies low on the field, 

Needs must we steadfastly stand by each other; 

Close in the conflict keeping together, 

As long as our hands can hold a weapon, 220 

Good blade wield. Godric the coward, 

Son of Odda, deceived us all. 

Too many believed 'twas our lord himself, 

When they saw him astride the war-steed proud. 

His run-away ride our ranks hath broken; 225 

Shattered the shield-wall. Shame on the dastard! 

Who caused his comrades like cowards to fly! 

Up spake Leofsunu, lifted his linden-wood, 

Answered his comrades from under his shield: 

"Here I stand, and here shall I stay! 230 

Not a foot will I flinch, but forward I'll go! 


Vengeance I've vowed for my valiant leader. 

Now that my friend is fallen in battle, 

My people shall never reproach me, in Stourmere; 

Call me deserter, and say I returned 235 

Leaderless, lordless, alone from the fight. 

Better is battle-death; boldly I welcome 

The edge and the iron." Full angry he charged, 

Daring all danger, disdaining to fly. 

Up spake Dunhere, old and faithful, 240 

Shook his lance and shouted aloud, 

Bade them avenge the valiant Byrhtnoth: 

"Wreak on the Danes the death of our lord! 

Unfit is for vengeance who values his life." 

Fell on the foe the faithful body-guard, 245 

Battle-wroth spearmen, beseeching God 

That they might avenge the thane of iEthelred, 

Pay the heathen with havoc and slaughter. 

The son of Ecglaf, ^Escferth by name, 

Come of a hardy North-humbrian race, 250 

— He was their hostage,— helped them manfully. 

Never he faltered or flinched in the war-play; 

Lances a plenty he launched at the pirates, 

Shot them on shield, or sheer through the breast-plate; 

Rarely he missed them, many he wounded, 255 

While he could wield his weapon in battle. 

Still Edward the long held out at the front; 

Brave and defiant, he boasted aloud 

That he would not yield a hair's breadth of ground, 

Nor turn his back where his better lay dead. 260 

He broke through the shield-wall, breasted the foe, 

Worthily paid the pirate warriors 

For the life of his lord ere he laid him down. 

Near him iEthelric, noble comrade, 

Brother of Sibryht, brave and untiring, 265 

Mightily fought, and many another; 


Hacked the hollow shields, holding their own. 

Bucklers were broken the breast-plate sang 

Its gruesome song. The sword of Offa 

Went home to the hilt in the heart of a Viking. 270 

But Offa himself s#on had to pay for it, 

The kinsman of Gadd succumbed in the fight. 

Yet ere he fell, he fulfilled his pledge, 

The promise he gave to his gracious lord, 

That both should ride to their burg together, 275 

Home to their friends, or fall in the battle, 

Killed in conflict and covered with wounds; 

He lay by his lord, a loyal thane. 

Mid clash of shields the shipmen came on, 

Maddened by battle. Full many a lance 280 

Home was thrust to the heart of the doomed. 

Then sallied forth Wistan, Wigelin's son; 

Three of the pirates he pierced in the throng, 

Ere he fell, by his friends, on the field of slaughter. 

Bitter the battle-rush, bravely struggled 285 

Heroes in armor, while all around them 

The wounded dropped and the dead lay thick. 

Oswold and Eadwold all the while 

Their kinsmen and comrades encouraged bravely, 

Both of the brothers bade their friends 290 

Never to weaken or weary in battle, 

But keep up their sword-play, keen to the end. 

Up spake Byrhtwold, brandished his ash-spear, 

— He was a tried and true old hero, — 

Lifted his shield and loudly called to them: 295 

"Heart must be keener, courage the hardier, 

Bolder our mood as our band diminjsheth. 

Here lies in his blood our leader and comrade, 

The brave on the beach. Bitter shall rue it 

Who turns his back on the battle-field now. 300 

Here I stay; I am stricken and old; 


My life is done; I shall lay me down 
Close by my lord and comrade dear." 

[Six more lines and the MS. breaks off. There cannot have 
been much left. The battle is over. And the words of old 
Byrhtwold make a fitting close for these renderings of Old En- 
glish verse. "Dark and true and tender is the north," and it 
dies fighting.] 





(About 1200) 

(From the Brut, about 1205) 

In the land lived a priest, who was Layamon called, 

He was Leovenath's son; Lord to him be gracious, 

He abided at Arnley, at the great Church there 

Upon Severn's side, (it seemed to him good there) 

Hard by to Radestone, where he read bookes. 5 

It came in his mind, and he made it his purpose, 

To tell of the English, the triumphs of old; 

What names the men had, what lands they were come from; 

What folk English-land first of ail owned 

After the deluge that down from the Lord came 10 

Which quelled all men that quick here it founde, [killed] 

Except Noah and Shem, Japhet and Ham, 

And their four wives who were in the ark with them. 


So 'gan Layamon wander wide 'mongst the people, 

And noble books got he for guides in his labours. 15 

That English book took he, made by Saint Baeda; 

Another in Latin, left by Saint Albin, 

And the bless' d Austin, who baptism brought us; 

A third he took likewise, and laid it among them, 

That a French clerk had made, — Wace was he called, 20 

This goodly writing he gave to the noble 

Eleanor, of Henry, that high King, his Queen. 

Layamon laid these books down, their leaves he turned over, 

With love he looked on them, the Lord grant him mercy, 

Feather took he with fingers, and fair on the book-skin [pen] 

The sooth words then wrote he, and set them together, 26 

And these three writings he wrought into one. 

Now Layamon prayeth, for the Lord's love Almighty, 

Each wise man who readeth words in this book written, 

And heedeth this teaching, that these holy wordes 30 

He say all together: 

For the soul of his father, who forth him broughte, 

For the soul of his mother, who made him a man, 

And for his own soul, so that better befall it. 

Amen. 35 

Unhurt of (falmxttBttv 


(From Riming Chronicle, about 1300) 

England is a right good land, I ween of all the best. 

Set it is at the world's end, afar within the west, 

And all about it goes the sea, it standeth as an isle. 

Its foes it thus needs fear the less, except it be through guile 


On part of folk of its own land, as hath been seen erstwhile. 5 
From North to South it stretches out in length eight hundred 

Two hundred miles from East to West in breadth the land 

extends; — 
In the mid-land, that is to say, and not as at one end. 
Plenty one may in Engeland of all good thinges see; 
If only folk will spoil them not, or other worse years be. 10 
For Engeland is full enough of fruit and eke of treen, 
Of woodes and of parkes most joyful to be seen; 
Of fowles and of beastes, both wild and tame also; 
Of salt fish and of fresh fish, of rivers fair thereto; 
Of wells both sweet and cold enough, of pasture and of 

mead; 15 

Of ore of silver and of gold, of tin and eke of lead; 
Of steel, of iron, and of brass, of coin in great plenty; 
Of wheat and eke of wool, so good none better may there be. 
Waters it hath enough also; before all others three, 
As arms are these out of the land, and reaching to the sea. 20 
By them the ships may come from sea and out their way may 

And bring inland enough of goods, to well nigh every place. 
Severn, and Thames, and Humber, so these three rivers 

And in the midst, as hath been said, there lyeth the pure land. 


(From the same) 

Thus came, lo Engeland into Normandy's hand, 

And the Normans could speak then naught but their own 

And spoke French as at home, and their children did teach, 
So high men of this land, that of Norman blood come, 


Keep them all to that speech that they had at their home. 
If a man know not French, small store men by him set, 
But low men hold to English and to their own speech yet. 
I ween that there beeth in the world countries none 
That hold not to their own speech but England alone. 
And well do I wot to know both well it is, 
For the more a man knows the more worth he is. 

(About 1300-1352) 


Listen, Lordings, if you will 
Hear of the battle of Halidon Hill. 

True King that sitteth on thy throne, 

Unto thee I tell my tale, 

And unto thee I bid a boon, 5 

For thou art balm of all my bale. 

As thou hast made the earth and moon, 

And beasts and foules great and smale, 

Unto me send thy succour soon 

Direct my deedes in this dale. 10 

In this dale I droup and dare [pine] 

For evil deeds that cost me dear, 

For England had my heart great care, 

When Edward went at first to were. [war] 

The men of France were bold to fare 15 

Against him with the shield and spere; 

They turned again with sides sair 

And all their pomp not worth a pere. [pear] 


A pear is more of price sometide [sometimes] 

Than all the boast of Normandie. 20 

They sent their ships on ilka side 

With flesh and wine and wheat and rye; 

With heart and hand, 'tis not denied, 

For to help Scotland gan they hie, 

They fled and durst no deed abide 25 

And all their boast not worth a flye, 

For all their boast they durst not fight, 

For dint of death they had such dout, [fear] 

Of Scotland had they never sight 

Although they were of wordes stout. 30 

They would have magnified their might 

And troubled were they there about. 

Now God help Edward in his right, — 

Amen — and all his ready rout. 

His ready rout may Jesu speed. 35 

And save them both by night and day; 

That Lord of Heaven may Edward lead, 

And him maintain as well He may, 

The Scotchmen now all wide will sprede [disperse] 

For they have failed of their prey, 40 

Now are they daunted all for drede 

That were before so stout and gay. 

Gay they were and well they thought 

On Earl Moray and others stout; 

They said it should full dear be bought, 45 

The land whence they were driven out. 

Philip Valois wordes wrought, 

And said he should their foeman stay; 

But all these words they went for naught, 

Words must be meet or weak are they. ■ 50 


More menaces they boasting cry, 

In spite of might they have their meed; 

And many a night awake they lie 

To harm all England by their deed; 

But low is now that pride so high 55 

Of those that were so stout on steed; 

And some of them all naked lie 

Not far from Berwick upon Tweed. 

A little from that selfsame town, 

Halidon Hill that is the name, 60 

There was cracked many a crown 

Of the wild Scot and eke of tame. 

Then was their banner borne all down, 

To make such boasts they were to blame; 

But natheless aye are they boune [ready] 65 

To hurt England with sorrow and shame. 

Shame they have as I here say; 

At Dundee now is done their dance, 

And wend they must another way 

Even through Flanders into France. 70 

On Philip Valois fast cry they, 

There for to dwell and him advance. 

And nothing list they now to play 

Since them befell this sorry chance. 

This sorry chance hath them o'erthrown, 75 

For they were false and wondrous fell; 
For cursed caitiffs are they known 
And full of treason, sooth to tell. 
Sir John Comyn had they struck down, 
In holy kirk they did him quell; [kill\ 80 

So many a Scottish bride makes moan 
•With dolour dight there must they dwell, [grief-stricken] 


There dwelled our king, the sooth to sayn, 

With his menie a little while; [company] 

He gave good comfort on that plain 85 

To all his men about a mile. 

Although his men were mickle of main, [great of might] 

Ever they doubted them of guile; 

They Scottish gauds might nowise gain [trap pings, booty] 

For all they stumbled at that stile. 90 

They came not from that strife alive 

That were before so proud in prese, [the post of danger] 

Jesu, for thy woundes five, 

In England help us to have peace. 


(From How Edward the King came to Brabant) 

God that shaped both sea and sand, 

Save Edward, King of Engeland, 

Both body, soul, and life, 

And grant him joy withouten strife; 

For many men 'gainst him are wroth 5 

In France and in Flanders both, 

For he defendeth fast his right 

And thereto Jesu grant him might, 

That he may do so night and day 

That it may be for Goddes pay. [satis j action] 10 



{Author unknown) 
Maidens of Eneglande sore may ye mourn 
For the loss of your true-loves at Bannockes burn! 

With heve-a-lowe! 


What? Weened the King of Engelande 
To have gotten Scotland? 

With rumbylowel 

3(0t|tt IBartuwr 

(About 1316-1395) 

(From The Bruce) 

Ah! Freedom is a noble thing! 

Freedom makes man to have liking; [his wish] 

Freedom all solace to man giveth, 

He liveth at ease that freely liveth. 

A noble heart may have no ease, 5 

May have naught else that may him please, 

If freedom fail'th; for free liking 

Is yearned for o'er all other thing. 

Nay, he that aye has lived free 

May not know well the propertie, 10 

The anger, nay, the wretched doom 

That coupled is to foul thraldome, 

But if he had assayed it 

Then all perforce he should it wit; [know] 

And should think freedom more to prize 15 

Than all the gold in world that is. 

Thus contrar thinges evermore 

Disclosers of the tother are. 



(14th Century) 
{Author unknown) 

We read full oft and find y-writ 

As clerkes wise make us to wit, 

Those lays that have for men's harping 

Been made of many a noble thing: 

Some are of weal; and some of woe, 5 

Some of joy and mirth also, 

Some of jest and ribaldry, 

And some there are of faerie; 

Of traitors some, and some of guile, 

Or some mishap that chanced erstwhile: 10 

Of all the things that men may see 

Most fit to praise forsooth they be. 

In Brittany these lays were wrought, 

There first were made, and thence were brought, 

Of aventures that fell in days 15 

Whereof the Britons made their lays; 

So when of old they chanced to hear 

Of aventures in days that were, 

They took their harps with glee and game 

And made a lay and did it name. 20 

Of aventures that did befall 

I can tell some but nowise all. 

Harken, lordlings, that be true, 

And I will tell of Sir Orphew. 

Orpheo was a riche King, 25 

And in his time a great lording; 
A full fair man both large and tall, 
And courteous and brave withal. 
His father was come of King Pluto, 


And his mother came of Queen Juno, 30 

Who in old times as gods were holden 

For deeds they did and words they tolden. 

Orpheo most of anything, 

Loved the music of harping; 

Certain was every good harp6ur 35 

From him to have most high honour. 

Right well himself he loved to harp, 

And gave thereto his wittes sharp; 

He learned so that there was none, 

Who could harp better 'neath the sun. 40 

Man in this world was never born, 

Who, if he Orpheo sat beforn, 

And once might of his harping hear, 

But he should thinke that he were 

In one of the joys of Paradis, 45 

Such music in his harping is. 

Orpheo lived in Crassens, 

A city noble in defence, 

He hath a queen full fair of pris, [price] 

That called is Dame Erodys, 50 

The fairest woman for the nones [in her time] 

That might be made of flesh and bones, 

Full of all love and of goodness, 

No man may tell of her fairness. 

It befel in time of May, — 55 

When is merry and pleasing the summer's day, 

Away have gone the winter's showers, 

And every field is full of flowers, 

Of blossoms springing on the bough, 

O'er all the land 'tis merry enow, — 60 

That this same Queen, Dame Erodys, 

Took with her maidens two of pris, 

And walked in the undertide [morning] 

To play within her orchard-side, 

To see the flowers spread and spring, 65 


And see and hear the sweet birds sing. 

Then down they seated them all three, 

Fairly beneath an ympe tree, [grafted tree] 

And full soon that fairest queen, 

Fell fast asleep upon the green, 70 

The maidens durst not her awake, 

But round her they 'gan merry make, 

And let her sleep till afternoon 

When the undertide was gone; 

And as soon as she gan wake 75 

She cried, and loathsome 'gan her make, 

Her hands and eke her feet she tore, 

And scratched her till she bled full sore; 

Her clothing rich she all to-rent, 

All wild out of her wittes went. 80 

The maidens two that sat beside, 

They durst no longer there abide, 

But straightway sought the castle hall 

And told both knights and squires all, 

How that their Queen away would go. 85 

The knights went also, and ladies too, 

And demoiselles fifty and many mo, [more] 

To fetch her as they fain would do. 

Into the orchard ran they out 

And took her in their armes stout, 90 

And brought her to her bed at last 

And therein held her down full fast; 

But still she cried in angry mood, 

And rent herself as she were wode. [mad] 

When heard the King this dread tiding, 95 

He was never so woe for any thing. 

The King came with his knightes keen [bold] 

Into the chamber to his Queen, 

And for her had he great pitie. 

" Sweet heart," he said, "how may this be, 100 

That thou who ever wert so still, 


Shouldst now cry out so loud and shrill? 

Thy body that was white beforn, 

Now with thy nails is rent and torn. 

Alas! thy cheeks which were so red 105 

Are now all wan and grey as lead, 

And thy dainty fingers fair, 

Pallid now and bloody are. 

Alas! thy lovely eyen too 

Look on me as on a foe. no 

Ladie dear, I crave mercie, 

Let be all this rueful cry, 

And tell to me what thing, and how, 

If any thing, — may help thee now." 

Still grows the lady at the last, 115 

While she began to weep full fast, 

Saying, while yet the tears would flow, 

"Alas! my lord, Sir Orpheo, 

Never since we two plighted troth 

Was either with the other wroth, 120 

Yet ever hast thou loved me, 

With all mine heart so have I thee; 

And now we twain shall part in two, 

Do thy best, yet I must go." 

"Alas!" he said, "my life is bare, 125 

Unto whom goest thou and where? 

Where thou comest thou shalt with me, 

Whither thou goest I will with thee." 

"Sir," said she, "it may not be thus, 

I'll tell thee how it is with us. 130 

As I lay this undertide 

Asleep upon the orchard-side, 

Two gallant knights came to me there, 

Arrayed in richest garments fair, 

And bade me come without letting, 135 

To speak unto their lord the king. 

Right boldly then I answered there — 


'Nor will I come, nor do I dare.' 

At the word they did depart, 

Then came their King so blithe of heart, 140 

With a thousand knights and mo 

And fifty fair ladies also, 

A-riding all on snow-white steeds, 

And snow-white also were their weeds, [garments] 

Never, in faith, since I was born 145 

Knights so fair came me beforn. 

The King a crown had on his head, 

'Twas not of silver, nor gold so red, 

All it was of precious stone, 

As bright as sun forsooth it shone. 150 

He stayed for naught but straight me sought, 

And willy, nilly, me he caught, 

And me he made with him to ride 

On a white palfrey by his side, 

And brought me in to his palys, [palace] 155 

Right well bedight it was I wis. 

He showed me castles, halls and towers, 

Rivers, meadows, fields and flowers, 

And his forests every one; 

And after, back he brought me home, 160 

Back into our own orchard, 

And said to me this afterward: 

'Look tomorrow that thou be 

Here beneath this ympe tree; 

And if thou makest any let, 165 

Where'er thou be thou shalt be fet, [fetched] 

And to tear thy limbes all, 

Shall help thee naught whate'er befall, 

And although thou be all torn 

Yet away shalt thou be borne.' " 170 

When the King he heard this case, 
"Out!" he said, "alace! alace! 
I had rather lose my life 


Than to lose the Queen my wife!" 

Counsel he asked of many man 175 

But of them all none help him can. 

The hour came, the morrow's sun, 

The King hath put his armour on, 

Two hundred knights he takes with him, 

Fully armed, stout and grim: 180 

Out then with the Queen went he 

Into the orchard 'neath the tree; 

Then did they watch on every side, 

And planned that there they would abide, 

Resolved to suffer death and woe, 185 

E'er that the Queen should from them go. 

But shortly then did it befall, 

As the Queen sat among them all, 

The fairy took that lady fair 

And she was gone — no man wist where. 190 

Crying and weeping there was also, 

The King gan to his chamber go, 

He fell adown upon the stone, 

And made great dole and mickle moan, 

Well nigh he had himself yschent [disgraced] 195 

He saw there was no amendement. 

He sent for earl and for baroun, 

And other lords of great renown, 

And, when they all together were, 

"Lordes," he said, ''assembled here, 200 

I set mine steward of mine hall 

To keep my landes over all. 

Now my Queen is left forlorn, 

The best ladie that e'er was born; 

No more will I woman see, 205 

In wilderness now will I be, 

And there abide in woodlands hoar 

And in the wilds forevermore. 

Then when ye know I have left all, 


Ye straight a parliament shall call, 210 

And ye shall chose you a new King, 

And do your best in everything." 

Great sorrow then was in the hall, 

Weeping and crying 'mongst them all, 

And there might neither old nor young 215 

For weeping speak a word with tongue 

They kneeled all a-down i-fere, [logelher[ 

And begged him if his will it were, 

That he would never from them go, 

"Away!" he said, "I will not so." 220 

Then all his kindred he forsook 

And unto him a sclaveyn took, [hair-shirt] 

He would have no other hood; 

Hose, nor shoe, nor other good; 

Only his harp he took, and straight 225 

He journeyed barefoot through the gate 

No man there must with him go, 

Alas! there weeping was and woe. 

He that was King and bare the crown, 

Went out so poorly from the town, 230 

Into the wild he takes his road, 

Both through the heath and through the wood. 

Nothing he hath to give him ease, 

But ever lives in great malaise. [discomfort] 

In the rough wood he nights must pass, 235 

And cover him with herb and grass; 

He that had a great plentie, 

Meat, and drink, and dignitie, 

Now must dig and grub full sair, 

Ere of roots he gets his fare. 240 

In summer on the haws he lives, 

That midst her leaves the hawthorne gives; 

In winter, by the root and rind, 

For other thing he may not find. 

He was all shrunken, shriveled, pale, 245 


With beating rain, and cutting hail; 

No man could tell the travail sore 

He had endured ten years or more. 

He that had castles, halls and towers, 

Forests, rivers, fields, and flowers, 250 

Nothing that likes him now had he, [pleases him] 

But savage beasts that from him flee. 

His matted beard has shaggy grown, 

Below his girdle has it gone. 

He taketh harp and maketh glee, 255 

And lies all night beneath a tree. 

When bright and clear there dawns the day, 

He takes his harp and makes no stay, 

Amidst the wood he sits him down 

And tunes his harp with a merry soun, 260 

And harps all after his own will; 

Through all the wood it ringeth shrill. 

The savage beasts that there are found 

For joy about him gather round, 

And all the little birds that were, 265 

For joy they come about him there 

To listen to that harping fine, 

So mickle joy there was therein. 

His harping when he laid aside, 

Nor bird, nor beast would then abide, 270 

But all together they are flown, 

And leave him there to sit alone. 

Often saw he him beside, 

In the heat of summer-tide, 

The Fairy King with all his rout, 275 

Come a-hunting all about. 

With shout and merry din they go 

And noise of hound and horn also; 

And yet forsooth, no beast they slay, 

Nor knows he where they take their way. 280 

And other whiles he may espye, 


A mighty hunt go passing by, 

Full two hundred knights of pride 

Armed through the forest ride. 

Somewhile he saw other thing, 285 

Knights and ladies come riding 

With raiment bright and courtly grace, 

Moving all with easy pace, 

Tabors and pipes with them there be, 

And every kind of minstrelsy, 290 

And ladies too there come riding, 

Jolie they were in everything, 

Gentle and gay they were I wis, 

Nor no man there among them is. 

Hawk on hand did each one bear, 295 

And hawking went by the rivere, 

Of game they found the favorite haunt, 

Pheasant, hern, and cormorant. 

The birds from out the river flew, 

And every hawk his quarry slew. 300 

That Orpheo saw in merry mood, 

As underneath the bough he stood; 

"Parfay," he said, "there is good game, 

Thither will I, in Goddes name." 

Such sport was he wont to see, 305 

So up he rose and there came he 

One lady there he came unto, 

He searched her face and form also, 

Right well he knew it was, I wis, 

His own ladie, Dame Erodys. 310 

He saw her plain and she him eke, 

Vet ne'er a word did either speak. 

For him she did so poor espy 

That sometime was so rich and high, 

The tears ran down her face, I wis, 315 

And looking on her so did his, 

And then away they made her ride, 


For there no longer she might bide. 

"Alas!" he said, "and woe is me! 

Why will not death come suddenly, 320 

Wretch that I am! O, that I might 

Die now, when I have seen this sight! 

Alas! too long lasteth my life, 

Since I may speak not with my wife, 

Nor she with me a word may speak! 325 

Alas! why will my heart not break! 

Parfay! he said, whate'er betide, 

I will see where those ladies ride, 

And in that way I too will go — 

I care not for my life a sloe." [berry of the 330 

His sclavyne put he on his back blackthorn] 

And took his harp right as he spak, 

And swiftly after them is gone, 

Over stock and over stone. 

In at the rock the ladies ride, 335 

He went straight after, he would not bide. 

When he was into the rock y-go 

Full three mile and some deal mo, 

He came unto a fair countray, 

It was as bright as any day. 340 

Neither hill nor dale was seen, 

All was lawn full fair and green, 

Midst it a castle met his eye, 

Noble and rich, and wondrous high, 

Over all the topmost wall 345 

Shone as doth the clear crystal, 

And the towers that were there 

Were gaily set with pearles fair; 

The farthest, rising from the ditch, 

Was all of gold and silver rich; 350 

The front, that stood amidst them brade, 

Was all of divers metals made; 

Within, a wondrous dwelling wide, 


With gold and gems all glorified, 

The pillars fair thereon, were dight 355 

With precious stones and sapphires bright. 

So fair the palace shone by night 

That all the town was full of light, 

Those riche stones so fairly shone 

They were as bright as any sun, 360 

No man might tell, nor think in thought, 

The riches that therein were wrought. 

The ladies at the castle light, 

He followed swiftly as he might; 

Orpheo knocked at the gate, 365 

Ready the porter was thereat, 

And asked him "what wilt thou so?" 

"Parfay! I am a minstrallo, 

I bring thee solace with my glee, [music] 

That thou the merrier may be." 370 

He then undid the castle gate, 

And let him in the palace straight. 

About looked Orpheo over all, 

He saw folk sit beneath the wall; 

And some that had been brought thereto, 375 

They seemed dead yet were not so, 

And there among them lay his wife, 

That he loved as his own life; 

She lay beneath an ympe tree, 

By her look he wist 'twas she. 380 

Then forth he went into the hall, 

There was great joy amongst them all. 

The riche King was seated there, 

And Orpheo gave him greeting fair; 

Beside him sate a Queene bright, 385 

Hardly of her he had a sight. 

When he had looked on all this thing, 

He kneeled down before the King, 

And asked him if his will it were 


That he his minstrelsy would hear. 390 

Then said the King: "And what art thou, 

Who come into my presence now? 

Myself nor none that is with me, 

Have ever yet sent after thee. 

Since I this kingdom first began 395 

I have not found so brave a man 

Who hither dared to come or wend, 

Save that I after him should send." 

"Sir," he said, "I trow full weel, 

1 hold it sooth, sir, every deal, 400 

It is the custom of us all 

To come to every lordes hall, 

And though we may not welcome be, 

Proffer we must our game or glee." 

Before the King he sat him down, 405 

And took his harp of merry soun, 

And straightway as full well he can, 

Many blithe notes he then began. 

The King looked up and sat full still, 

To hear his harping he had good will. 410 

When he had ceased from his harping, 

Then said to him that riche King: 

"Minstrel, me liketh well thy glee; 

Whatever thing thou ask of me, 

Freely now I will thee pay, 415 

Therefore, ask now, and assay." 

"Lord," he said, "I beg of thee, 

If that it shall your pleasure be, 

Give me that lady bright of ble, [hue] 

That lies beneath yon ympe tree." 420 

"Nay," he said, "that may I ne'er, 

For ye would be a sorry pair; 

Thou art all shaggy rough and black, 

And she is made withouten lack. 

A foule thing it were to see, 425 


To put her in thy companie." 

"Lord," he said, "thou riche King, 

It were yet a fouler thing, 

To hear a lying word from thee, 

As though thou promised nought to me, 430 

Saying thou'd give me what I would! 

A Kinges word must needs hold good." 

"Thou sayest sooth," the King said than, 

"Forsooth thou art a true man. 

I will well that it be so, 435 

Take her by the hand, and go. 

I will that thou of her be blithe." 

And him he thanked many a sythe. [many times] 

He took her by the hand anon, 

With right good will they out are gone, 440 

And fast they hied from that palace, 

And went their way through Goddes grace; 

Into the wilds they both are gone, 

O'er holt and heath they journey on. 

And so they take their way full fast, 445 

And to Crassens they come at last, 

That sometime was her own citie, 

But no man wist that it was he. 

With beggar poor of humblest life 

A space he tarried with his wife. 450 

He asked tidings of the land, 

And who the kingdom had in hand. 

The humble beggar in his cote, 

Answering, told him every grote; 

How that the Queen was fetched away 455 

To the land of faerie on a day, 

And how the King did after go, ' 

But to what place no man can know. 

The Steward, he says, the land doth hold; 

So, many tidings he them told. 460 

The morrow at the noone tide 


Sir Orpheo bade his Queen there bide, 

He took his harp and right anon 

Into the town he straight is gone. 

And when he came to the citie, 465 

Many a man him came to see, 

Men and wives and maidens fair, 

Gathered fast to see him there; 

And marvelled much as him they view, 

How thick the moss upon him grew; 470 

"His beard is grown right to his knee, 

His body is withered as a tree." 

Then his own Steward did he meet, 

Passing in state adown the street, 

And Orpheo fell upon his knee 475 

And said: "Lord help, for charitie, 

A minstrel I of Heathenesse, 

Lord help me now in this distress." 

The Steward said: "With me come home, 

And of my goods thou shalt have some, 480 

For Orpheo's sake once Lord to me, 

All minestralles shall welcome be." 

Anon they went into the hall, 

The Steward and the lordes all. 

The Steward washed, and went to meat, 485 

And all the lordes down were set, 

Then was there music in the hall, 

But Orpheo sat against the wall. 

When all are still, the music done, 

He took his harp of sounding tone, 490 

And fast on it he played the glee; 

The Steward looked, and 'gan to see, 

For well he knew that harp belive; [quickly] 

"Minstrel," he said, "as thou mayst thrive, 

How gottest thou that harp, and where ? 495 

Now for thine honor tell me fair." 

"Lord, in an uncouth land," he said, [unknown] 


"I found it in a forest glade; 

I saw a man grown thin and pale, 

It lay beside him in a dale, 500 

Now it must be ten winters gone." 

The Steward cried, and made great moan, 

"It was my Lord, Sir Orpheo, 

Ah! that he e'er did from us go." 

The King beheld the Steward than, 505 

And wist he was a right true man; 

To him he said without lying, 

"Sir, I am Orpheo, the King. 

Here to the outskirts of the town, 

I've brought my gentle lady down." 510 

The lords all start that sit around, 

Then wist they that the King was found. 

With music and processioun, 

They fetched the Queen into the town. 

A good life lived they afterward, 515 

And after them reigned the Steward. 

Thus came they out of all their care, 

God give us grace as well to fare! 

And all that list to this talking 

In heaven's bliss be their dwelling! 520 

Amen, amen, for charitie, 

Lord grant us that it so may be. 


(From Sir Gawayne and the Green Knight. About 1370; 
{Author unknown) 

For the Yule-tide had yielded, and the year after, 

And each several season ensued after other. 

Thus after Christmas came crabbed Lent-time, 

That affords fish for flesh, and food the most simple. 

But then the world's weather with winter is warring; 5 


Winter withdraws himself, white clouds uplift; 
Soft descendeth the rain in showers full warm, 
They fall on fair fields and the flowers are showing, 
Both the ground and the grove now with green are arrayed, 
Birds bestir them to build, and bravely are singing 10 

For solace of summer ensuing thereafter 
On bank. 

And blossoms bud and blow 

On hedge-rows rich and rank, 

And noble notes enow 

Are heard in woodlands dank. 15 

Then comes the season of summer, bathed in soft breezes, 
Breezes that breathe themselves into seedling and herbage, 
Blithesome, in truth, is the blossom that bloometh therefrom, 
When the drenching dews drip down from the leaves', 
Biding the blissful beams of the bright sunne. 20 

Next harvest hies him, and hardens the grain, 
He warns it ere winter to wax full ripe; 
The dust of the drought he driveth aloft, 
From the face of the fields it flies full high; 
Wild winds of the welkin war with the sunne, 25 

The leaves of the woodland lie low on the ground, 
And all grey is the grass that all green was so lately. 
Then all ripens and rotteth that rose up in flower, 
To know winter is nearing, now need we to tell us 
No sage. 

When Michaelmas's moon 30 

Was come with winter's gage, 

Then thought Gawayne full soon 

Of his dread pilgrimage. 



(From Sir Gawayne and the Green Knight) 

Now wends he his way through the wild tracts of Logres, [Eng- 
Sir Gawayne on God's hest, and no game he thought it. land] 
Oft alone he alights, and lies down at night-fall 
Where he found not before him fare to his liking. 
O'er field and in forest, no friend but his horse, 5 

No comrade but God for counsel had he, 
Till at length he draws near to the land of North Wales. 
All Anglesey's isles on the left hand he leaves, 
And fares o'er the fording hard by the foreland, 
Over at Holy-head, till he had journeyed 10 

To Wirral's wilderness, where few are dwelling 
Who God or man with good hearts regard. 
Fain would he find from men that he met with 
News of a Knight in that neighborhood dwelling 
Who garbed him in green, or of a green chapel. 15 

All denied him with "nay", saying not in a lifetime 
Wist they ever a wight that was of such hues 
Of green. 

The Knight rode ways most strange, 

The rocky banks between, 

And oft his cheer doth change, [expression] 20 

Ere he that church hath seen. 

Many cliffs he climbed over in countries far distant; 

As out-cast, cut off from companions, he rides. 

At each way through the water where he crossed over, 

He a foe found before him, — but phantom it was, — 25 

So foul and so fell that to fight it behoved him. 

So many a marvel in these mountains he findeth, 

'Twere tedious to tell the tenth of those wonders. 

Now with serpents he struggles, and strives with wolves also, 


Satyrs sometimes assail him, strange shapes from the rocks, 30 
Both with bulls and with bears, and with boars otherwhiles, 
Or with monsters that meet him, huge men of the fells. 
He was fearless, unfalt'ring and faithful to God, 
Or he doubtless had died, for death threatened him oft. 
But war he could wage, yet the winter was worse, 35 

When the cold chilling waters, from storm-clouds down pouring 
Would freeze ere they fell on the fallow beneath 
Near slain with the sleet, he slept in his armour, 
More nights than enough on the naked rocks, 
While clattering o'er the cliff the cold brook comes down, 40 
And high o'er his head hard icicles hang. 
Thus in perils and pains and plights the most hard, 
Till Christmas eve cometh, he keepeth alone 
His quest. 

Humbly the Knight, that tide, 

Besought of Mary Blest, 45 

That she his way would guide 

Unto some place of rest. 

At morn by a mountain he merrily rideth, 

Through a woodland full wild that was wondrous and deep, 

High hills on each hand, with a holt stretching under 50 

Of hoar oaks full huge, a hundred together; 

And tangled thickets of thorn and of hazel, 

With shaggy robes of rough ragged mosses; 

Many birds sit unblithely on the bare twigs, 

And piteously pipe for pain of the cold. 55 

The rider on Gringolet rideth beneath them 

Through mire and marshes, a man all alone, 

Perturbed in his toil lest to him t'were forbidden 

To share in His service, who, on that same night, 

Was born of a maid, all our sorrows to cure. 60 

Therefore sighing he said: "I beseech Thee, O Lord, 

And Mary, mildest mother so dear, 

Some shelter to show me, some spot to hear mass 


And thy matins at morn, this meekly I beg, 
And thus promptly I pray, my Pater, and Ave, 65 

And Creed." 

So as he rode he prayed, 

And mourned for his misdeed, 

The holy sign he made, 

And said: "Christ's Cross me speed." 



(Before 1200) 

I am now older than I was, in wisdom and in lore, 
I wield more power than I did: were but my wisdom more. 

Too long have I been a child in word and eke in deed; 
Yet though I am in winters old, too young am I in heed. 

Methinks my life a useless one, like that I've always led; 5 
And when I ponder on it well, full sorely do I dread, 

For almost all that I have done befits unto childhood, 
And very late have me bethought, unless God helps to good. 

I've spoken many idle words since I to speak was able, 
Full many deeds I've done that now seem most unprofitable. 10 

And almost all that I once liked is hateful now to me; 
Who follows over much his will, himself deceiveth he. 

I might in truth have better done had my ill-luck been less; 
Now that I would, I can no more for age and helplessness. 

Old Age his foot-step on me stole ere I his coming wist; 15 
I could not see before me for the dark smoke and the mist. 

Laggards we are in doing good, in evil all too bold; 
Men stand in greater fear of man than of the Christ of old. 

Who doth not well the while he may, repenting oft shall rue 

The day when men shall mow and reap what they erstwhile 

did strew. 20 




(About 1215-1220) 

Now, brother Walter, brother mine 

After the fleshes kind, 
And brother mine in Christendom 

Through baptism and through truth, 
And brother mine eke in God's house, 5 

Once more, in a third way, 
Since that we two have taken both 

One book of rules to follow. 
Under the canons' rank and life 

So as Saint Austin set; 10 

I now have done even as thou bad'st, 

Forwarding to thy will, 
I now have turned into English 

The Gospel's holy lore, 
After that little wit that me 15 

My Lord and God has lent. 
Thou thoughtest how that it might well 

To mickle profit turn, 
If English folk, for love of Christ, 

It readily would learn 20 

And follow it, fulfilling it 

With thought, with word, with deed, 
And therefore yearnedst thou that I 

This work for thee should work; 
And I have forwarded it for thee, 25 

And all through help of Christ. 


Qtyrtmas of Slates 


(Before 1226) 

A maid of Christ entreateth me 

That I for her a love-rune write 

By which most plainly she may see 

The way to choose a faithful knight; 

One that to her shall loyal be 5 

And guard and keep her by his might. 

Never will I deny her plea, 

To teach her this be my delight. 

Maiden, thou mayest well behold 

How this world's love is but a race 10 

Beset with perils manifold 

Fickle and ugly, weak and base. 

Those noble knights that once were bold 

As breath of wind pass from their place, 

Under the mold now lie they cold, 15 

Wither like grass and leave no trace. 

There's none so rich, nor none so free, 

But that he soon shall hence away. 

Nothing may ever his warrant be, 

Gold, nor silver, nor ermine gay. 20 

Though swift, his end he may not flee, 

Nor shield his life for a single day. 

Thus is this world, as thou may'st see, 

Like to the shadow that glides away. 


This world all passes as the wind, 25 

When one thing comes, another flies; 

What was before, is now behind; 

What was held dear, we now despise 

Therefore he does as doth the blind 

That in this world would claim his prize 30 

This world decays, as ye may find; 

Truth is put down and wrong doth rise. 

The love that may not here abide, 

Thou dost great wrong to trust to now; 

E'en so it soon shall from thee glide, 35 

'Tis false, and brittle, and slight, I trow, 

Changing and passing with every tide, 

While it lasts it is sorrow enow; 

At end, man wears not robe so wide 

But he shall fall as leaf from bough. 40 

Paris and Helen, where are they 

That were so bright and fair of face? 

Amadas, Tristram, did they stay, 

Or Iseult with her winsome grace? 

Could mighty Hector death delay, 45 

Or Caesar, high in pride of place? 

They from this earth have slipped away 

As sheaf from field, and left no trace 

They are as though they never were, 

Of them are many wonders said, 50 

And it is pity for to hear 

How these were slain with tortures dread, 

And how alive they suffered here; 

Their heat is turned to cold instead, 

Thus doth the world but false appear, 55 

The foolish trust it, — lo! 'tis sped. 


For though a mighty man he were 

As Henry, England's king by birth, 

Though he as Absalom were fair, 

Whose peer lived not in all the earth, 60 

Yet of his pride he's soon stripped bare, 

At last he'll fetch not a herring's worth, 

Maid, if thou mak'st true love thy care 

I'll show thee a love more true than earth. 

Ah! maiden sweet, if thou but knew 65 

All the high virtues of this knight! 

He is fair and bright of hue, 

Mild, with face of shining light, 

Meet to be loved and trusted too, 

Gracious, and wise beyond man's sight, 70 

Nor through him wilt thou ever rue, 

If thou but trust in his great might. 

He is the strongest in the land; 

As far as man can tell with mouth, 

All men lie beneath his hand, 75 

East, and West, and North, and South; 

Henry, King of Engelland, 

He holds of him and to him boweth 

His messenger, at his command, 

His love declares, his truth avow'th. 80 

Speak'st thou of buildings raised of old, 

Wrought by the wise king Solomon, 

Of jasper, sapphires, and fine gold, 

And of many another stone? 

His home is fairer by many fold 85 

Than I can tell to any one; 

'Tis promised, maid, to thee of old, 

If thou wilt take him for thine own. 


It stands upon foundations sound, 

So built that they shall never fall; 90 

Nor miner sap them underground, 

Nor shock e'er shake the eternal wall; 

Cure for each wound therein is found, 

Bliss, joy, and song, fill all that hall. 

The joys that do therein abound 95 

Are thine, thou may'st possess them all. 

There friend from friend shall never part, 

There every man shall have his right; 

No hate is there, no angry heart, 

Nor any envy, pride or spite; 100 

But all shall with the angels play 

In peace and love in heavenly light. 

Are they not, maid, in a good way, 

Who love and serve our Lord aright? 

No man may Him ever see 105 

As He is in all His might, 

And without pure bliss may be 

When he knows the Lord of light. 

With Him all is joy and glee, 

He is day without a night. no 

Will he not most happy be 

Who may bide with such a knight? 

This writing, maiden that I send, 

Open it, break seal and read; 

Wide unroll, its words attend, 115 

Learn without book each part with speed. 

Then straight to other maidens wend 

And teach it them to meet their need; 

Whoso shall learn it to the end 

In sooth 'twill stand him in good stead. 120 


And when thou sittest sorrowing, 

Draw forth the scroll I send thee here, 

And with sweet voice its message sing, 

And do its bidding with good cheer. 

To thee this does His greeting bring; 125 

Almighty God would have thee near; 

He bids thee come to His wedding, 

There where he sits in Heaven's high sphere. 


(13th Century) 
(Author unknown) 

As once I lay in winter's night, 
Sunk deep in sleep before the day, 
Methought I saw a wondrous sight; 
Upon a bier a body lay. 

It once had been a wilful Knight, 5 

Scant service he to God did pay; 
Clean lost had he his lifes light, 
The ghost was out and must away. 

When the ghost it needs must go, 
It turned aside and near it stood; 10 

Beheld the body it came fro 
Most sorrowful in frightened mood. 
It said: "Woe! woe! and welawoe! 
Woe worth thy flesh, thy foule blood, 
Wretched body, why liest thou so 15 

That wert but now so wild and wode ? [passionate] 

"Thou that once wert wont to ride 
High on horse with head un-bowed, 
Famed for prowess far and wide, 
As a lion fierce and proud, 20 


Where is all thy mighty pride, 
And thy voice that rang so loud, 
Why dost thou there all naked bide, 
Stitched within that wretched shroud ? 

"Where is now thy broidered weed, 25 

Thy sumpters, bearing thy rich bed ? [pack-horses ) 
Thy palfreys and thy battle-steed 
Which at thy side thy Squire led? 
Thy crying hawks of chosen breed, 
And the hounds that thou hast fed? 30 

Methinks, God recks not of thy need, 
For all thy friends are from thee fled. 

"Where are thy castles and thy towers, 
Thy chambers and thy stately halls, 
Painted with many-coloured flowers, 35 

And thy riche robes all ? 
Thy downy quilts and covertures, 
Thy sendals and thy purple palls? 
Wretch! full dark is now thy bower, 
To-morrow thou therein shalt fall!" 40 

Now when the ghost with gruesome cheer [expression] 
Thus had made his mournful moan, 
The corpse, stretched stark upon the bier, — 
A ghastly thing thus left alone, — 
Its head and neck did strait uprear; 45 

As a sick thing it 'gan to groan, 
And said: "Where art thou now, my fere, [companion] 
My ghost, that quite art from me gone? 

"God shaped thee in His image fair, 
And gave to thee both wit and skill; 50 


He trusted me unto thy care 

To guide according to thy will. 

In witchcrafts foul I had no share, 

Nor wist I what was good nor ill, 

But like dumb beast thy yoke I bare 55 

And as thou bad'st I must fulfill. 

"Placed thy pleasures to fulfill, 
Both at even and at morn, 
I was in thy keeping still 

From the time that thou wast born. 60 

Thou, that knewest good and ill, 
Surely should'st have judged beforn 
Of my pride, my foolish will; 
Now alone thou liest forlorn." 

The ghost it said: "Body, be still, 65 

Where learned'st thou this moral air? 
Givest thou me harsh words and ill 
And liest like swollen wine-skin there? 
Thinkest thou, wretch, though thou shalt fill 
With thy foul flesh a noisome lair, 70 

That from the deeds thou didest ill 
Thou shalt be freed, nor judgment bear? 

"Thinkest now thy rest to win 
Where thou liest rotting in the clay? 
Though thou be rotten bone and skin, ■ 75 

And blowen with the wind away, 
Yet limb and joint thou shalt come in 
Again to me on doomesday, 
Together we shall pass within 
To Court, to take our bitter pay. 80 

"You to my sway did God commit, 
But when you thought on evil deed, 


Hard in your teeth you held the bit, 

And did all things that I forbede. 

Sin you obeyed, you drew to it, 85 

To ease, and shame, and lust, and greed; 

I fought you hard with strength and wit, 

But aye you followed your own rede. 

"I bade you mind your spirit's need; 
But matins, mass, and evensong 90 

You put aside for other deed, 
And called them vain, with foolish tongue. 
To wood and field you chose to speed, 
Or run to Court to do men wrong; 
Except for pride or greater meed 95 

Small good you did your whole life long." 

The Body, answering, said its say: 
"O Soul! thou hast done wrong in this, 
All the blame on me to lay, 

Now thou hast lost the highest bliss. 100 

Where did I go, by wood or way, 
Where sat, or stood, or did amiss, 
But 'neath thine eye I went each day; 
Well knowest thou the truth of this. 

"I should have been but as the sheep, 105 

Or like the dumb and herded kine, 
That eat, and drink, and sprawl, and sleep, 
And passed my pain — like slaughtered swine; 
Gold had I never cared to keep, 
Nor known that water was not wine, no 

Nor been thrust down to hell's black deep, 
But for thee, — Soul, — the fault was thine." 


The ghost replied: "There is no doubt 
Thy part was always me to bear: 
Needs must this be, I was without 115 

Or hand or foot wert thou not there: 
Save as thou carriedst me about 
I could do naught, nor least act share; 
I must before thee bend devout, 
To do aught else I did not dare. 120 

"Of one woman born and bred, 
Body, thou and I were twain; 
Together fostered fair and fed 
Till thou couldst walk and speak thee plain; 
Thee gently, moved by love, I led, 125 

Nor dared I ever give thee pain. 
To lose thee was my sorest dread, 
Knowing I'd get no more again. 

"I saw you fair in flesh and blood, 
And all my love to you I gave; 130 

That you should thrive methought was good, 
Soft ease and rest I let you have; 
This wrought in you rebellious mood, 
You rushed to sin as impulse drave; 
To fight against you did no good 135 

You bore me with you as your slave. 

"Well warned wert thou of this before, 
And told we both should judgment have; 
All this you scorned as foolish lore, 
Yet watched thy kin go down to grave. 140 

Thou didst all that the world thee bade, 
Each thing thy eager flesh might crave, 
And I allowed it, (I was mad!), 
Thou wert the master, I the slave." 


[The Body speaks] 145 

"Thinkest thou, Ghost, thou gainest aught 
To quit thee from thy blame withal, 
By saying that thou, so nobly wrought, 
Wast forced to serve me as my thrall ? 
Nothing I did and nothing sought, 150 

Ne'er plundered, stole, ne'er sinned at all, • 
But first in thee arose the thought. 
Abide it who abide it shall! 

"How wist I what was wrong or right, 
What to take, what cast away, 155 

Save as thou brought'st it to my sight, 
Thou o'er whom wisdom should bear sway? 
Thus, trained by you in base delight 
Companion of your pleasures gay, 
Then did I ill with all my might, 160 

Once more to have my wicked way. 

"But haddest thou, — Christ grant 'twere true, — 
Given me hunger, thirst, and cold, 
And taught me good that no good knew, 
When I in evil was so bold, 165 

Then, what I learned in youth from you, 
I had held fast when I was old; 
You let me North and South roam through, 
And take my pleasures uncontrolled." 

Then wept the ghost most bitterly, 170 

"Body, alas, alas!" (it said). 
"That e'er of old I loved thee! 
Lost was the love I on thee stayed; 
Falsely you feigned a love for me, 
And me a house of glass you made; 175 


I gave you pleasures trustfully, 
You, traitor, still my trust betrayed. 

"No longer, Body, may I dwell, 
No longer stand to speak with thee; 
Now I hear the hell-hounds yell, 180 

And fiendes more than man may see; 
They come to fetch me down to hell, 
No whither may I from them flee; 
And thou shalt come with flesh and fell 
At doomesday to dwell with me." 185 

Almost before the words were said, 
That told it wist where it must go, 
Burst in at once in sudden raid 
A thousand devils and yet mo. 

And when they once had on him laid 190 

Their savage claws, they tare him so 
He was in torment, sore afraid, 
Tossed, tugged and tousled to and fro. 

For they were shaggy, shock-haired, tailed, 
With bulgy bumps upon the back, 195 

Their claws were sharp, they were long-nailed, 
No limb there was but showed some lack. 
The ghost was right and left assailed 
By many a devil foul and black; 
Crying for mercy naught availed 200 

When God his vengeance due must take. 

Instead of colt for him to ride, 
Straightway a cursed devil came, 
That grisly grinned and yawned wide 


Out from his throat flared tongues of flame. 205 

The saddle on his back and side 

Was stuck with pikes to pierce and maim, 

'T'was as a heckle to bestride, 

And all a-glow with scorching flame. 

Upon that saddle was he slung, 210 

As though to ride in tournament; 
A hundred devils on him hung, 
Hither and thither him they sent; 
He with hot spears was pierced and stung, 
And sore with hooks of iron rent; 215 

At every stroke the sparkles sprung 
As they from blazing brand were sent. 

When he the ride had ridden at last, 
Fast to that fearful saddle bound, 
As hunted fox he down was cast, 220 

The worrying hell-hounds close him round, 
They rend him, trembling and aghast, 
And harry him towards hell's dark bound; 
A man might trace the way they passed 
By blood-stains on the trampled ground. 225 

They bid him then his horn to blow, 
To urge on Bauston and Bevfs, 
His hounds well wont his call to know, 
For they would shortly sound the pris. 
A hundred devils, in a row, 230 

Drag him with ropes toward the abyss, 
The loathly flames are seen below, 
The mouth of hell it was, I wis. 

When once that dread abode is won, 
The fiends set up so loud a yell 235 

That earth it opens up anon; 


Smother and smoke rise from that cell, 

Both of foul pitch and of brimstone, 

Men five miles off can smell that smell; 

Woe grips and holds that wretched one 240 

Who scents from far that scent of hell. 

The foule fiends, with eager grin, 
Seize on the soul, and, whirling it, 
With might and main they hurl it in, 
Down, down, into the devil's pit, 245 

Then, they themselves plunge straight therein, 
To darkness with no sunshine lit, 
Earth closes on that house of sin, 
The dungeon-doors shut fast on it. 

When they had gone, that loathsome brood, 250 
To hell's black pit, ere it was day, 
On every hair the sweat-drops stood 
For fright and fear as there I lay: 
To Jesus Christ, in chastened mood, 
Yearning I cried, — and dreaded aye 255 

That those fierce fiends so foul and lewd, 
Would come to carry me away. 

Then thanked I Him who passed death's gate, 

Who unto man such mercy bore, 

My shield 'gainst many an evil fate, 260 

And felt my sins as ne'er before. 

All ye who sin, I charge you straight 

To shrive you and repent you sore; 

For sin was never sinned so great 

That Christ's wide mercy was not more. 265 



(About 1250) 
{Author unknown) 

Once within a summer's dale, 

In a very secret vale, 

Heard I 'gainst each other rail 

Hoary Owl and Nightingale. 

That strife was stiff, and stark, and strong, 5 

Now 'twas soft, now loud it rung, 

And each bird would the other flout, 

And all the evil mood let out; 

And each said of the other's way 

The very worst she knew to say; 10 

Indeed, about each other's song 

The strife they waged was very strong. 

The Nightingale began the speech 
From her corner in a beech: 

She sat upon a pleasant bough, 15 

Blossoms about there were enow, 
Where in a thick and lonely hedge, 
Mingled soft shoots and greenest sedge. 
She, gladdened by the bloomy sprays, 
Varied her song in many ways. 20 

Rather it seemed the joy I heard 
Of harp or pipe than song of bird. 
Such strains, methought, must rather float 
From harp or pipe than feathered throat. 
Then, from a trunk that stood hard-by, 25 

The Owl in turn made her reply, 
O'er it the ivy grew apace; 
There made the Owl her dwelling-place. 

The Nightingale, who saw her plain, 
Surveyed the bird with high disdain, 30 

Filled with contempt she viewed the Owl, 


Whom all men loathsome deem and foul. 

"Monster," she cried, "take wings and flee, 

I am the worse for sight of thee, 

Truly, at thy black looks of yore 35 

Full oft my song I've given o'er; 

My tongue grows weak, my courage flies 

When you appear before mine eyes, 

I'm more inclined to spit than sing 

At sound of thy harsh sputtering." 40 

The Owl abode till it grew late. 
Eve came, she could no longer wait; 
Her heart began to swell and strain 
Till scarce she could her breath contain. 
Half choked with rage, these words she flung : 45 
"What think'st thou now about my song? 
Think'st thou in song I have no skill 
Merely because I cannot trill? 
Often to wrath thou mo vest me, 
And dost abuse me shamefully. 50 

If in my claws I held thee fast, — 
And so, mayhap, I shall at last, — 
And thou wert down from off thy spray 
Then should'st thou sing another way." 

Then made the Nightingale reply: 55 

"If I avoid the open sky, 
And shield myself in places bare, 
Nothing for all thy threats I care; 
While in my hedge secure I sit, 
I reck not of your threats a whit. 60 

I know you cruel to devour 
All helpless things within your power, 
Wreaking your wrath in evil way 
On smaller birds where'er you may. 
Hated of all the feathered rout, 65 

The birds combine to drive you out; 
Shrieking and scolding after you, 


They hard upon your flight pursue. 

The tit-mouse, if she had her will, 

Would tease you and would work you ill. 70 

Hateful to look upon thou art 

In many ways, and every part; 

Thy body's short, thy neck is small, 

Thy head is greater far than all; 

Thine eyes coal-black are staring wide 75 

As though with woad they had been dyed; 

You stare as though you'd like to bite 

Each thing your cruel claws could smite; 

Just like an awl that has been crooked, 

Your bill is stiff and sharp and hooked, 80 

With it you hoot both oft and long, 

This passes with you for a song. 

You threaten me, longing to clasp 

My flesh and crush me in your grasp; 

More fit for thee would be a frog, 85 

That sits beneath the mill-wheel's cog, 

Or snails, and mice, and creatures foul, — 

Such are the sort fit for an Owl. 

By day you sit, by night take wing, 

Knowing you are an eerie thing; 90 

That thou art loathsome and unclean 

From thine own nest is plainly seen, 

And also by thy foul young brood, 

Which thou dost feed on foulest food." 

[After a prolonged controversy, the Nightingale speaks again:] 

"Owl," she said, "why dost thou so? 95 

Thou sing'st in winter welawo! 

Thou sing'st as doth a hen in snow, 

And all she sings is but for woe: 

Thou sing'st in winter's wrath and gloom, 

In summer thou art ever dumb. 100 


It is but for thy foolish spite 

That thou with us canst not be bright; 

For thee consuming envy burns 

When to the land our bliss returns. 

Thou'rt like some cross-grained, crabbed wight, 105 

Who turns black looks on each delight, 

Ready to grudge it, and to lower 

If men are happy for an hour; 

He wishes rather to espy 

The tears of grief in each man's eye, no 

Let the mob fight, he does not care 

Though each man pulls the other's hair. 

E'en so thou dost upon thy side, 

For when the snow lies thick and wide, 

And every creature has his sorrow, 115 

Thou sing'st from night-fall till the morrow. 

But I, all bliss with me doth wake, 

Each heart is gladder for my sake, 

All live in joy when I am here, 

All wait for me to reappear. 120 

The blossom 'gins to spring and sprede 

Upon the tree and o 1 * the mede, 

The lily, with her face of snow, 

Welcometh me, as well you know, 

And bids me, with her aspect fair, 125 

To fly to her, and greet her there. 

So too, with ruddy face, the rose, 

That from the thorny briar grows, 

Bids me to sing in bush and grove, 

A joyous carol for her love." 130 


Htffort iHatmmg, xxf Vnttm? 


(From Handlyng Synne, about 1303) 

Nothing is to man so dear 
As woman's love in good manere. 
A good woman is manes bliss, 
When her love right and steadfast is. 
No solace is there 'neath the sky, 
Of all that man may name or try, 
That man to joy so greatly moves 
As a good woman that truly loves. 
Nor dearer is none in all God's herd 
Than a chaste woman with lovely word. 


(About 1320-1325) 
{Author unknown) 


Man yearneth rimes for to hear, 
And romances of strange mattere, 
Of Alisaundere the conquerour, 
Of Julius Caesar the emperour, 
Of Greece and Troy the strange strife 
Where many thousand lost their life; 
Of Brut, that hero bold of hand, 


First conquerour of Engeland; 

Of King Arthour that was so rike [mighty] 

Whom no one in his time was like; 10 

Of wonders that his knights befell 

Adventures many as I've heard tell, 

As Gawain, Kay, and others stable, 

For they were men of the Round Table; 

How Charles and Roland waged their fig'it, 15 

With Sarcens they no troth would plight; 

Of Tristrem and his dear Ysote 

How he for her became a sote; [madman] 

Of Joneck and of Ysambrase, 

Of Ydoine and of Amadase, 20 

Stories also of sundry things, 

Of princes, prelates, and of kings, 

Many songs of storied rime, 

English, Frankish, and Latine. 

To read and hear each one is prest 25 

Of whatsoe'er he likes the best; 

The wise man will of wisdom hear, 

The fool to folly draws him near; 

The wrong to hear of right is loath, 

And pride with buxomness is wroth. [humility] 30 

But by the fruit the wise may see 

Of what vertu is every tree. 

All sorts of fruit that man shall find 

Must draw from out the root their kind; 

From goodly pear-trees come good pears, 35 

Worse tree, the worse the fruit it bears. 

That I should speak from this same tree 

Betokens, man, both me and thee; 

This fruit betokens all our deeds, 

Both good and ill who rightly reads. 40 

Our dedes in our hearts take root, 


Whether they be for bale or boot; 
For by the thing man draweth unto 
For good or ill men shall him know. 

All this world, ere I have done, 45 

With Christ's help shall I over-run, 

And tell some stories principal, 

For no man may relate them all. 

But since no work may long endure 

That stands not on foundation sure, 50 

This same work, therefore, shall I found 

Upon a wondrous, steadfast, ground; 

That is the Holy Trinity 

That all has wrought with His beauty. 

Unto Him first I turn my face, 55 

And then His handywork I'll trace: 

Of the angels first that fell, 

And next I will of Adam tell, 

Of his offspring and of Noe, 

And somewhat of his sonnes three; 60 

Of Abraham and of Isaac, 

That holy were withouten make; [without an equal] 

After shall I tell to you 

Of Jacob and of Esau too; 

Then should there be thereafter told 65 

How that Joseph was bought and sold; 

How Moses 'midst the Jews arose, 

That Goddes folk to lead them chose; 

How God the law to him did give 

By which the Jewish folk should live. 70 

Of Saul the king, and David too 

How he Goliath fought and slew; 

And next of Solomon the Wise, 

How craftily he did justice; 

How Christ came down through prophecy, 75 

And how He came His folk to buy. 


[The author next goes on to enumerate various other matters 
of which he proposes to treat, such as the birth of Christ, the 
destruction of the innocents, the flight into Egypt, and so on 
through the gospel story. After this outline of the general plan 
and scope of his work he concludes his prologue as follows: — ] 

These are the subjects put in place 

I think within this book to trace; 

Speaking but shortly of each deed, 

For there are many tales to speed. 80 

Useful, methinks, it were to man 

To know himself how he began; 

How he at first was born and bred, 

How o'er the earth his offspring spread; 

Both of the first and of the last, 85 

And in what course this world is past. 

Those things that Holy Church doth state 

In this same book I now translate. 

In English tongue 'tis all made clear 

For love of all the English here; 90 

English folk of Engeland, 

For the commons to understand. 

French rimes are there in this land 

To be found on every hand; 

French is wrought for Frankish man, 95 

What is for him that no French can? 

The. nation of England old 

The Englishmen in common hold; 

The speech that man with most may speed 

Must be the speech that men most need. 100 

Seldom was by any chance 

Praised the English tongue in France; 

Do we the same to their language 

Methinks we do them no outrage. 

For unlearned Englishman I spell, 105 

That understandeth what I tell, 


And specially I those address 

That all their lives in idleness 

On trifles waste and beggars' lies, 

To them I say: "Take care, be wise, no 

And well unto my words attend, 

And all your way with might amend." 

Ill have they who in spending spend, 

And find no fruit thereof at end. 

Now from this prologue we will blinne [crease] 115 

And in Christ's name our book begin: 

Cursor o'World men ought it call, 

For almost it o'er runs it all. 

Take we our beginning than [then] 

From Him who all the world began. 120 

Sirtfarfc Soil* 

(About 1 300-1 349) 

(From The Prick of Conscience) 
(About 1340) 

All manner of joyes are in that stede: 

There is life without any death; 

And there is youth without any eild; [age] 

And there is all kind of wealth to wield; 

And there is rest without any travail; 


And there is all good that never shall fail; 

And there is peace without any strife; 

And there is all manner of liking of life; 

And there is aye summer full bright to see, 

And never more winter in that countrie: 10 

And there is more worship and honour, 

Than ever had king or emperour: 

And there is great melody of angels' song, 

And there is praising them among: 

And there is all manner friendship that may be, 15 

And there is ever perfect love and charitie. 

And there is wisdom without folly, 

And there is honesty without villany. 

All these a man may joys of Heaven call: 

But yet the most sovereign joy of all 20 

Is sight of Goddes brighte face, 

In whom resteth all manner grace. 


(About 1370) 
(Author unknown) 

Pearl, princes prize, and men essay 
To safely close in gold most clear! 
Of Orient pearls, I surely say, 
Never was found its precious peer; 
So round, so radiant in array, 
So small, so smooth its surface fair. 
Whenever I judged of jewels gay 
I set it singly in singlere. [apart] 

Alas! I lost it in an arbere: [arbor] 


Through grass to ground it from me got. 10 

I droop, death-stricken by love-daungere, [bondage] 
For my own pearl without a spot. 

Since, in that spot it from me sprung 

Oft have I waited, wishing that weal [bliss] 

That once was wont dispel my wrong, 15 

Lift up my lot, my spirit heal. 

But now, struck through with sorrows strong, 

Its loss my burning breast must feel. 

Yet heard I never so sweet a song 

As the still hour let to me steal. 20 

Strange thoughts their shapes but half reveal, 
As I muse on its colour, all clad in clay. 
O mould! thou marrest a wondrous jewel, 
My precious pearl that hath slipped away. 


Lo! there sweet spices needs must spread 25 

When so much wealth to earth has run; 

Flowers golden, blue, and red, 

Shine full sheen against the sun. 

Never may fruit and flower fade 

Where my pearl sank down in the earth-mould dun; 30 

For each grass must grow from seed-grain dead, 

No wheat were else for harvest won; 

From good each good is aye begun; 

So precious a seed must perish not; 

Spices must spring from this chosen one, 35 

From this precious pearl without a spot. 


To this spot that I in speech expoun [declare] 

I entered, in that arbour green, 


In August, in a high sesoun, 

When corn is cut with sickle keen. 40 

On a mound where once my pearl rolled down 

Fell shadows of flowers shining and sheen, — 

Gillyfleur, ginger, and gromyloun, [gromwell] 

And peonies powdered all between. 

If it were seemly but to be seen, 45 

Still sweeter the scent it gave, I wot, 

Where dwells that blessed one I ween, 

My precious pearl without a spot. 

Prone in that place, wild hands I pressed, 

Clutched as with freezing cold, I fought; 50 

Grief grew to tumult in my breast, 

Reason nor calm, nor comfort brought. 

I plained my pearl that earth possessed 

And vainly strove with struggling thought. 

Though Christ's compassion offered rest, 55 

My wretched will against it wrought. 
I fell upon the flowery ground, 
Sweet odours o'er my senses streamed, 
Till, sunk in depths of sleep profound, 
About my spotless pearl I dreamed. 60 


From thence my soul sprang far in space, 
My body on ground abode in sweven. [sleep] 

My ghost is gone by Goddes grace, 
Through ways unknown and wondrous driven. 
I wist not in this world the place, 65 

But I felt me rapt past great rocks riven: 
Towards a forest I turned my face 
Where splendid cliffs soared high to heaven 
Their light no man may well believen, 


For a glistering glory from them gleamed; 70 

The loom no silks has ever given 

With colours so clear as from them streamed. 


Adorned was each hilly side 

With christal cliffs of clearest kind. 

The forests fair about them bide 75 

With tree-bolls blue as blue of Ind; 

Their leaves, like silver's burnished pride, 

A-flutter in the fragrant wind 

With glinting gleams show glorified, 

In shimmering splendors half-defined. 80 

The gravel, that each foot may grind, 

Was precious pearl of Orient, 

Sunlight itself seemed dull and blind 

Beside that land of wonderment. 


The splendor of those hill-sides rare 85 

Made my glad heart its grief forgete; 

The fruits so fresh of fragrance were 

I was fed-full with odours sweet. 

Birds flitted through that forest fair 

Of flaming hues, both small and grete; 90 

No citole's string nor gittermere [zilhern- player] 

Their mirthful music might repeat. 

For, when these birds their winges beat, 

Then sing they all with sweet concent. 

No man knows rapture so complete 95 

As sight and sound together lent. 



The woods are rich in radiant guise 

Where'er by Fortune led, I fare, 

And shining glories glad mine eyes, 

That no man may with tongue declare. 100 

I wander on in happy wise, 

For steepest cliff seems harmless there. 

The farther I fared the fairer 'gan rise 

Meads bright with bloom, and spice, and pear, 

Green-bordered brooks, and river fair 105 

Its banks as thread of finest gold. 

Win I at last to a water rare;— 

Dear Lord! 'twas lovely to behold. 

The margent of that wondrous deep 

Was shining bank of beryl bright. no 

Sweetly the sliding waters sweep, # 

With a murmurous music they take their flight. 

The bottom gleaming stones doth keep, 

That glow through the lucent depths like light, 

Or shining stars, which while men sleep 115 

Wink in the welkin on Winter's night. 

Each shining stone that shimmered to sight 

Was sapphire, or some jewel rare, 

They lit the deep with living might, 

So clear that lovely land and fair. 120 


The rich array of down and dales, 
Of wood and water and wide plains, 
Bred in me bliss, abated bales, 
Released my stress, destroyed my pains. 


Along the stream that strongly hales [flows] 125 

All rapt I roved, brimfull my brains. 

The farther I followed those wat'ry vales 

The greater the joy at my glad heart strains. 
Though Fortune's gifts no force constrains, 
Lend she solace or sorrows sore, 130 

The wight who once her favour gains 
Strives ever to win more and more. 


Far more of bliss glowed in such guise 

Than I could tell if time I had; 

For mortal heart may not suffice 135 

For tenth part of that rapture glad. 

I thought in truth that Paradise 

Lay just beyond those bright banks brade. [broad] 

The waters, methought, as bounds arise 

Twixt garden and garden, between them made. 140 

Beyond the brook, by slope and shade, 
Stands the Holy City, beyond the shore. 
But the water was deep, I durst not wade, 
And ever my longing grew more and more. 


Mair and mair, and yet much mair 145 

I longed beyond that stream to stand; 

For if 'twas fair where I did fare 

Far fairer gleamed that farther land. 

Stumbling I strove, looked here and there 

To find a ford, on every hand; 150 

But of greater perils I grew aware 

The longer I searched that shining strand. 


And yet, it seemed I must burst the band, 
So strong was the call of that distant shore. 
When lo! the sight mine eyes next scanned 155 

Stirred my strained spirit more and more. 


A marvel 'gan my ghost confound; 

I saw, beyond that merry mere, 

A cliff, from whose clear depths profound 

Streamed lights* that lit the golden air. 160 

Beneath, a child sate on the ground, 

A maid of mien full debonair; 

White, shining garments girt her round; — 

I knew, — I had seen her other-where. 

As gold in threads that men may shear, 165 

So sheen she shone upon that shore. 

The longer I looked upon her there 

The surer I knew her, more and more. 


And as I fed on her fair face, 

And searched her child-like figure o'er, 170 

Pure gladness did my soul embrace, 

That I had lacked so long before. 

To call her would I fain find grace, 

But stunned I stood, bewildered sore; 

I saw her in so strange a place 175 

That dazed, the sight no meaning bore. 

She lifts her brow, well-known of yore, 

Her face as smooth as ivory; 

My wild dismay grows more and more, 

My soul is stung with what I see. 180 



Stronger than longing, fear arose; 

I stood quite still and durst not call; 

Wide-eyed I wait, my lips I close, 

As mute as hooded hawk in hall. 

That sight so strange, so spectral rose, 185 

I feared the end that might befall; 

The dread lest she escape me grows, 

Or vanish ere I could forestall. 

Then she, whose shining lightened all, 

So soft, so smooth, so pure, "so slight, 190 

Rose up robed in array royal, 

A pearl, in precious pearl es dight. 


Pearls that would grace a kingly power, 

A man might there by grace have seen, 

When fresh and fair as lily-flower, 195 

Adown the shore she stepped, I ween. 

Her linen robe, a royal dower, 

Flowed free; its lustrous borders been 

Purfled with pearls: before that hour 

Such sight mine eyes had never seen. 200 

Her flowing sleeve-laps showed full sheen 
With pearls, in double border dight: 
Her kirtle, where it showed between, 
With precious pearls gleamed pure and bright. 


All rich in pearls that rare one bright 205 

Drew near the shore beyond the flood; 


From here to Greece no gladder wight 

Than I, when by the brink she stood. 

Nearer than niece or aunt, of right 

I found in her my joy and good. 210 

Then low she bowed her figure slight, 

Cast by her crown in happy mood, 

And as I looked, I understood 

And heard her greet me full of grace. 

Dear Lord! who me with life endued, 215 

'Twas worth it all to see her face. 


"O Pearl," I cried, "in pearles dight, 

Art thou that pearl that I have plained [bewailed] 

Much missed by me alone, at night? 

What longing have I long sustained 220 

Since into grass you slipped from sight. 

Pensive, oppressed, I pine sore pained, 

While you, at rest in realm of light, 

In Paradise a home have gained. 

What Weird has thither my gem constrained, 
And brought me this grief and great daungere! 226 
Since we in twain were torn and twained, 
I have been a joyless jeweler." 

That jewel there, with jewels graced, 

Lifted her face with eyes of grey, 230 

Her crown of orient pearl replaced, 

And grave and slow did sweetly say: — 

"Sir, you mistake and speak in haste 

To say your pearl is all away; 

In coffer is it safely placed. 235 

Shut safe within this garden gay, 


To dwell forever there, and play 
Where sin and sorrow come never near, 
This spot were thy treasure house, parfay, 
If thou wert a gentle jeweler. 


"But jeweler gentle, if thou dost give 240 

Thy joy for a gem thou deemed'st dear, 

In sooth thou dost but thyself deceive, 

Vexed in vain with a foolish fear. 

For you lost but a rose, you may well believe, 

That must flower and fade with the fading year, 245 

Yet so wondrous a dust did that rose receive 

That it proved a pearl in this shining sphere. 

Though thou called'st thy Weird a thief, 'tis clear 

From nought it has gained the great treasure; 

To blame the hand that has helped thee here 250 

Shows thee a thankless jeweler." 

[After the Dreamer has been urged to be patient, he sees the 
Maiden in Heaven and is filled with a great longing to join her.] 


Drawn by delight of eye and ear, 

My yearning mood to madness grows; 

I would be with my dear one there, 

Though swift the severing current flows. 255 

Nothing will harm me if on I .fare, 

Or lame me, methought, by baffling blows; 

If I only the plunge in the stream can dare 

I will swim the space though the waves oppose, 

Or die in the deed. Yet a thought arose 260 

Ere I plunged perverse in that water chill, 
That stilled my impatience and brought repose 
For I know it was not my Prince's will. 



It pleased Him not that I should break 

Through those marvellous marches unafraid, 265 

As rash and rude my course I take 

My daring onset is sudden stayed: 

For as to the brink my way I make 

With a start I find my vision fade, 

And lo! in that arbour fair I wake, 270 

My head on that selfsame hillock laid 

On that spot where my pearl into earth once strayed. 

Awe-strucken, silent, I sate alone 

Then sighing deep to myself I said: 

"May the Prince's will in all be done." 275 

William ffiattglanft 

(About 1 332- 1400) 


In the season of summer, when soft was the sunne, 

I clad myself coarsely in a cloak as a shepherd; 

In habit as an hermit unholy of workes, 

Went I wide in this world wonders to heare. 

And on a May morning on Malverne hilles, 

A marvel amazed me, of magic methought. 

I was weary, for-wandered, and went me to reste 

Under a broad bank, by a burn-side; 

And as I lay and leaned, and looked in the waters, 

I slumbered in a sleeping, it sounded so merry. 

Then did I dream there a dream full of wonder; 


In the wilds I was wandering, wist I not where. 

As I looked to the Eastward a-loft to the sunne, 

I saw set on a summit a seemly tower; 

A deep dale beneath and a dungeon thereinne, 15 

With deep ditches and dark, and dreadful to sight. 

A fair field full of folk found I there between them, 

With all manner of men the mean and the riche, 

Working and wandering as the world asketh. 

Some put them to ploughing, playing full seldom, 20 

In setting and sowing swinking full hard, [toiling] 

And winning what wasters with gluttony destroy. 

And some put to pride, appareled them thereafter, 
In fancies of fashion finely arrayed. 

To prayers and to penance put themselves many, 25 

All for love of our Lord living full strict, 
In the hope for to have heavenly blisse; 
As anchorets and hermits that hold in their celles, 
In the world never wishing to wander about, 
Or with bounteous abundance their bodies to please. 30 

And some chose to chaffer, their chances to better, 
For it seems to our sight that such men are most thriving. 
And some to make merry, as minstrels are able, 
And get gold with their glees, guiltless I deem them. 
But jesters and jugglers, Judas's children, 35 

Found out false fantasies and feigned themselves foolish, 
Yet have wit at their will, to work were they willing. 
That Paul preacheth of them prove now I dare not; 
Qui loquitur turpiloquium is Lucifer's slave. 

There bidders and beggars right busily wandered, 40 

Their bags and their bellies with bread fully crammed; 
There feigned want of food, and fought o'er the ale-cups, 
In gluttony, God wot, go they to bedde, 
And rise up with ribaldry, these Robert's men. {vagabonds] 
So sleeping and sloth pursue them forever. 45 

Pilgrims and palmers plighted them together 
To seek for Saint James and the saintes at Rome, 


Went forth in their way with many wise stories, 

And had leave for to lie, all their life after. 

I saw some that said they had sought out the saint es; 50 

With tongues tempered to lie in each tale that they tolde, 

More than to say sooth it seemed by their speech. 

Hermits in an heap, with hooked staves 

To Walsingham wended, — their wenches came after. 

Great lubbers and lazy that loth were to swinke, 55 

Clothed them in copes to be counted as "brethren", 

In habit of hermit their ease for to have. 

I found there the friars of all the four orders, 
They preached to the people to profit themselves, 
Glossing the Gospel as was their good pleasure. 60 

For, coveting copes, they construed as they would. 
For many of these masters may dress as it likes them, 
For their money and merchandise marchen together, 
For since Charity hath been chapman and chief to shrive lordes, 
Many ferlies have fallen in a few yeares. [marvels] 65 

If Holy Church and they hold not better together, 
The most mischief on mold is mounting full fast, [earth] 

There preached a Pardoner, a priest as he were, 
And brought forth a Bull with the Bishopes seales, 
And said that himself might assoilen them alle [pardon] 70 
Of falseness in fasting, and vows they had broken. 
The unlettered believed him and liked well his wordes, 
Coming up to him kneeling and kissing his Bulles, 
Then he banged them with his brevet and bleared their eyen, 

[cheated them] 

Thus they give up their gold these gluttons to help. 75 

Were the Bishop but blessed and worth both his eares, 
He would send not his seal for deceiving the people. 
But 'tis not at the Bishop that the boy preaches, 


For Pardoner and priest part between them the silver, 
And the poor of the parish may have what is left. 80 

Parsons and parish-priests plained to the Bishop, 
As their parishes were poor since the pestilence time, 
To have licence and leave at London to dwelle, 
And they sing thus for simony, — for silver is sweet. 

Bishops and bachelors both masters and doctors, 85 

That hold cures under Christ and have crowning [parishes] 
in token [tonsured crowns] 

And sign that they should their parishioners shrive, 
And preach and to pray for them, and the poor feede, 
Are living in London, in Lent- time and other. 
Some are serving the King, and his silver are taking, 90 

In Exchequer and Chancery, claiming his debtes 
Due from wards in the wardmote, both waifs and estrays, 
And some serve as servants the lords and the ladies, 
And instead of stewards they sit and condemn. 94 

Their mass and their matins and most of the hours 
Are done undevoutly; dread is at the last 
That Christ in His Council should curse very many. [Doomsday] 

There hovered an hundred in hoodes of silke, 
Sergeants it seemed that served at the barre, 
Pleading for pennies and poundes the laws, 100 

And naught for love of our Lord unloose their lips ones, [once] 
Better measure the mist on Malverne's hilles, 
Than get a mum from these mouthes till money be showed. 

Baron and burgesses and bond-men also, 
I saw there assembled, as ye shall hear after. 105 

Bakers and brewers, and butchers a-many, 
And weavers of woolens, and weavers of linen, 
Tailors and tanners, and toilers of earth. 
Masons and miners, and many a craft. 
Of all living labourers leaped, some of each kind, no 

As ditchers and delvers that do their deeds ill, 
And drag out the long day with "Dieu vous sauve, Dame," 
Cooks and their knaves cried "hote pies, hotel 


Good gris and geese, — go now to dine, — go!" [pigs] 
And unto them Taverners tolde the same, 115 

"White wine of Oseye, and red wine of Gascoigne [Alsace] 
Of the Rhine and of Rochelle the roast to defy!" 
And this I saw sleeping and seven times more. 


(From Passus I.) 

What this mountain be-meaneth, and this dark dale, 
And this field full of folk, fair shall I show you. 120 

A Lady most lovely in linen y-clothed, 

Came down from the cliff and cleped me fair, [spokekindlytome] 
And saide, "Son! sleepest thou? see'st thou this people, 
How busy they be, all bestirred in a maze ? 
The most part of the people that pass now on earthe, 125 
If they have the world's worship, they wish for no better, 
Other Heaven than here, hold they as nothing." 
I was feared of her face, fair though she were, 
And said, "Merci, Madame, what things may this meane?" 
"The tower on the top," quoth she, "truth is thereinne, 130 
And would that you wrought as His word teacheth. 
He is Father of faith and formed you alle, 
Both your flesh and your face, and gave you fine wittes 
To worship Him therewith the while ye are here." 

In my wit then I wondered what woman it were, 135 

That such wise wordes of Holy Writ showed, 
And besought for His sake ere thence she departed, 
She would tell me title who taught me so fair. 
"Holy Church am I," quoth she, "thou should'st me knowe, 
I fostered thee first and thy faith to thee taughte, 140 


And provided thy vows, my voice to obey, 
And loyally love me, the while thy life dureth." 
Then I crouched on my knees and cried for her grace, 
And prayed her piteously pray for my sinnes, 
And kindly to teach me on Christ to believe, 145 

That His will I might work here, that wrought me a man. 
"Teach me no treasure, but tell me this only, 
How my soul I may save, — you that Saint are y-holden! : ' 
"When all treasures are tried," quoth she, "Truth is the 
On Deus Caritas I do it to deal with thee truly, 150 

'Tis desire as dear-worth as dear God Himselfe, 
Who is true in his tongue, and telleth naught else, 
And the works doth withal and wills no man ille, 
He is good by the Gospel on ground and above, 
And is like to our Lord, by Sainte Luke's wordes. 155 

The clerkes that know this should ken it aboute [teach] 
For Christians proclaim it, and unchristians also." 

Thus I saw surely, by sight of the scriptures, 
When all treasures are tried, that Truth is the beste 

"Nature tells thee," quoth she, "and teaches thy herte 160 

For to love liefer thy Lord than thyselfe. 

No deadly sin to do, die though thou shouldest, 

This I trowe be Truth; who can teach thee aught better, 

Look thou suffer it to speak and so teach it after; 

For this witnesseth His word, work thou thereafter, 165 

For truth telleth that Love is triacle of Heaven; [healing] 

No sin is seen in Him who useth that cure 

And who wrought all His works with Love as He listed; 

As most heavenly and mightiest to Moses He taught it, 

The plant of all peace and most precious of virtues. 170 


For these are the wordes writ down in the Gospel, 

Date et dabitur vobis, for I deal to you alle 

Your grace and good hap, your wealth for to winne, 

And so know I, by nature, of that which you render. 

This the lock is of Love, that lets out my grace 1 75 

To comfort the care-full, encumbered with sinning 

Love is the liefest thing that our Lord asketh, 

And eke the strait gate that goeth to Heaven. 



Sweetly sang the monks in Ely 
When Canute the king rowed by! 
"Row, Knights, near the land 
And hear the monks' sweet song." 


(About 1250) 

Summer is a-coming in, 

Sing loud Cuckoo! 
Groweth seed, and bloweth mead 
And springeth the woode noo 

Sing Cuckoo! 

Ewe bleatath after lamb, 
Lows for her calf coo; 

Bullock sterteth, buck verteth, 
Merry sing Cuckoo! 


Cuckoo, Cuckoo, well sing'st thou Cuckoo: 10 

So cease thou never noo. 
Sing Cuckoo, noo, sing Cuckoo! 


(About 1300) 

Spring is come to town with love 
With blossom and with bird in grove, 

That all this bliss now bringeth. 
There are daisies in the dales; 
Notes full sweet of nightingales; 5 

Each bird song singe th. 
The throstlecock out-sings them all; 
Away is fled the Winter's thrall, 

When woodrow springeth. 
Then chanting birds in wondrous throng 10 

Thrill out their joy the glades among 

Till all the woodland ringeth. 

The crimson rose is seen, 
New leaves of tender green 

With good-will grow, 15 

The moon shines white and clear, 
Fennel and Thyme are here, 

Fair lilies blow. 
Their mates the wild drakes find, 
Each creature seeks his kind. 20 

As stream that trickles slow, 
We plain when life is drear, 
For cruel love the tear 

Unchecked must flow. 


The moon sends forth her light, 25 

The goodly sun shines bright, 

And birds sing well. 
Dews drench the soft young grass, 
And whispering lovers pass, 

Their tale to tell; 30 

Snakes woo beneath the clod, 
Women grow wondrous proud 

On field and fell. 
If one shall say me no 
Spring joy I will forgo 35 

And banished dwell. 


Trolly, lolly, loly, lo, 

Syng troly, lolo, lo. 

My love is to the grene wode gone, 

Now after will I go: 

Syng trolly, loly, lo, lo, ly, lo. 


Merry it is while summer lasts 

With small birds' song; 
But now draw nigh the windy blasts 

And weather strong. 
Ay, ay, but this night is long. 
And I with abounding wrong 
Keep sorrow, moans and fasts. 



(About 1300) 

Winter wakeneth all my care; 
Leaves are few and branches bare; 
Oft I sigh and mourn full sair, 

When there cometh to my thought 
All the world's joy, how it all goes to nought. 5 

Now it is, now no more seen; 
Gone as it had never been, 
Many men say truth, I ween, 

That all goes by God's will. 
We all must surely die, though it seem ill. 10 

All that green that graced the year, 
Now is dying, brown and sere. 
Jesus, let thy help be near 

And shield us now from hell. 
For I know not whither I shall go nor how long here 

shall dwell. 15 


(About 1300) 

Between soft March and April showers, 

When sprays of bloom from branches spring, 

And when the little bird 'mid flowers 

Doth song of sweetness loudly sing: 

To her with longing love I cling, 5 

Of all the world the fairest thing, 


Whose thrall I am, who bliss can bring 

And give to me life's crown. 
A gracious fate to me is sent; 
Methinks it is by Heaven lent 10 

From women all, my heart is bent, 

To light on Alysoun. 

Her sheeny locks are fair to see, 

Her lashes brown, her eyes of black; 

With lovely mouth she smiles on me; 15 

Her waist is slim, of lissom make. 

Unless as mate she will me take, 

To be her own, my heart will break; 

Longer to live I will forsake, 

And dead I will fall down. 20 

A gracious fate, etc. 

All for thy sake I restless turn, 

And wakeful hours sigh through at night; 

For thee, sweet lady, do I yearn; 

My cheeks wax wan in woful plight. 25 

No man so wise that can aright 

Her goodness tell, her beauties bright; 

Her throat is than the swan's more white, 

The fairest maid in town. 

A gracious fate, etc. 30 

Weary as water in the weir, 

With wooing I am spent and worn; 

Lest any reave me, much I fear, 

And leave me mateless and forlorn. 

A sharp, short pain is better borne, 35 

Than now and evermore to mourn. 

My love, O fair one, do not scorn, 

No longer on me frown. 
A gracious fate to me is sent; 


Methinks it is by Heaven lent; 40 

From women all, my heart is bent, 
To light on Alysoun. 


(About 1300) 

I know a maid in bower bright, 

That full seemly is to sight 

Maid of majesty and might, 

Of loyal heart and hand. 

'Midst many a nobler one 5 

A maid of blood and bone, 

I know not ever none 

So fair in all the land. 

Blow, Northern Wind, 

Send thou me my sweeting 10 

Blow, Northern Wind, blow, blow, blow. 

With her long and lovely tresses, 

Forehead and face fair for caresses 

Blest be the joy my lady blesses 

That bird so bright in bour, 15 

With lovesome eyes so large and good 

With blissful brows beneath her hood, 

He that once hung upon the Rood 

Her life holds in honour. 

Blow, Northern Wind, 20 

Send thou me my sweeting 
Blow, Northern Wind, blow, blow, blow 

Her face is full of light, 

As a lantern in the night 

She sheds a radiance bright, 25 


So fair is she and fine. 

Her neck is slender to enfold 

Her loving arms bring joy untold 

Her little hands are soft to hold 

Would God that she were mine. 30 

Blow, Northern Wind, 

Send thou me my sweeting 

Blow, Northern Wind, blow, blow, blow. 

She is coral of goodnesse 

Ruby she of rightfulnesse 35 

She is christal of cleannesse 

Beauty's banner she. 

She is lily of largesse 

Periwinkle of promesse 

She the sunflower of sweetnesse 40 

Lady of loyalty. 

Blow, Northern Wind, 

Send thou me my sweeting 

Blow, Northern Wind, blow, blow, blow. 

For her love I mourn and moan, 45 

For her love I grieve and groan, 

For her love my good is gone 

And I was all wan. 

For her love in sleep I sigh 

For her love I wakeful lie 50 

For her love I droop and cry 

More than any man. 

Blow, Northern Wind, 

Send thou me my sweeting 

Blow, Northern Wind, blow, blow, blow 55 



When the nightingale sings, the woodes waxen greene, 
Leaf and grass and blossom springs, in Averil I weene, 
And love is to my hearte gone, with a spear so keene. 
Night and day my blood it drinks, mine heartes death to 
teene. [trouble] 

I have loved all this year, that I can love no more, 5 

I have sighed many sighs, Lady, for thine ore, [grace] 
Ne'er my love comes near to thee, and that me grieveth sore. 
Sweetest Lady think on me, I loved thee of yore. 

Sweetest Lady, speak I pray, one word of love to me, 
While in this wide world I stay, I'll seek for none but thee, 10 
Your kind love might give me bliss, from pain might set me 

A sweet kiss of thy dear mouth, might my surgeon be. 

Sweetest Lady, here I pray, one boon of love bestowe, 
If you love me, as men say, as I, dearest, knowe, 
If you will it, look on me, just a look will showe, 15 

So much have I thought of thee, I all ghastly growe 

Between Lincoln and Lindesey, North-Hamptoun and 

I wot not of so fair a may, by tower, dale, or toune, [maid] 
Dearest one, I humbly pray, love me a little soone. 

I now will plain my song, 20 

To her to whom it doth belong. 



(About 1350) 

Where are they that lived before, 
Hounds they led and hawks they bore 

And had both field and chase? 
Ladies rich in bowers fair, 

Nets of gold bind up the hair, 5 

Rosy-bright of face. 

They ate and drank and made them glad 
Their life was all with pleasure led, 

Men kneeled them beforn, 
They bore themselves full proud and high 10 

And in the twinkling of an eye 
Their souls were all forlorn. 

Where is that laughing and that song 
The pride with which they passed along, 

The hawk, and hound, and bower? 15 

All that joy is gone away, 
That weal is come to welaway, 
To many a bitter hour. 

They took their heaven while they were here 

And now in hell they lie in fere; [together] 20 

The fire it burneth ever, 
Long is ay, and long is o, 
Long is wy, and long is wo, 
From thence come they never. 



That this singular and impressive little poem may be more 
readily understood, the word earth has been here printed with a 
capital wherever it is used to signify man, the creature made of 
the dust of the earth. This emphasizes the distinction between 
the different senses in which the word earth is used throughout 
the poem. 

Earth out of earth is wondrously wrought, 
Earth of earth hath got a dignity of naught, 
Earth upon earth hath set all his thought, 
How that Earth upon earth may be high brought. 

Earth upon earth would be a King; 5 

But how Earth shall to earth thinketh nothing; 
When that earth biddeth Earth his rentes home bring, 
Then shall Earth out of earth have a piteous parting. 

Earth upon earth winneth castles and towers, 
Then saith Earth to earth: "Now all this is ours!" 10 

When that Earth upon earth hath built up his bowers, 
Then shall Earth upon earth suffer sharp showres. [battles] 

Earth goes upon earth as mold upon mold, 

So goes Earth upon earth all glittering in gold, 

As though Earth unto earth never go should, 15 

And yet Earth shall to earth before that he would. 

O thou Earth that on earth travailest night and day, 
To deck thee, Earth, to paint thee with wanton array; 
Yet shalt thou, Earth, for all thy earth, make thou it never 

so quaint and gay, 
Out of this earth into the earth, there to cling as a clod of 

clay. 20 


O wretched man, why art thou proud that art of earth maked ? 
Hither broughtest thou no shroud, but poor came thou and 

When thy soul is gone out, and thy body in earth raked, 
Then thy body that was rank and undevout, of all men is 


Out of this earth came to this earth this wretched garment, 25 
To hide this Earth, to hap this Earth, to him was clothing 

Now goes Earth upon earth, rueful, ragged, and rent, 
Therefore shall Earth under earth have hideous torment. 

Why that Earth too must love earth, wonder me think, 
Or why that Earth for superfine earth, too sore sweat will 
or swink; [toil] 30 

For when that Earth upon earth is brought within the brink, 
Then shall Earth of the earth have a rueful swink. 

So, Earth upon earth, consider thou may 

How Earth cometh into earth naked alway, 

Why should Earth upon earth go now so stout or gay 35 

When Earth shall pass out of earth in so poor array? 

Therefore, thou Earth upon earth that so wickedly hast 

While that thou, Earth, art upon earth, turn again thy 

And pray to that God upon earth that all the earth hath 

That thou, Earth upon earth, to bliss may be brought. 40 

O Thou Lord that madest this earth for this Earth, and 

suffered here paines ill, 
Let not this Earth for this earth evil e'er spille, [destroy] 


But that this Earth on this earth be ever working Thy will. 
So that this Earth from this earth may fly up to Thy high hill. 

Amen. 45 


The life of this world 

Is ruled with wind, 

Weeping, darkness, 

And stirring: [unrest] 

With wind we blowen, [blossom] 5 

With wind we lassen: 

With weeping we comen, 

With weeping we passen. 

With stirring we beginnen 

With stirring we enden, 10 

With dread we dwellen, 

With dread we enden. 


Ave maris stella 
The star upon the sea 

Dei mater alma 
Blessed mayest thou be 

Atque semper virgo 
Pray thy son for me 

Felix celi porta 
That I may come to thee. 



I saw a fair maiden a-sitting to sing 

She lulled a little child, a sweete lording 

Lullaby my litling, my dear son, my sweeting, 
Lullaby my dear heart, my own dear darling. 

That child is the Lord who hath made everything, 5 

Of all lords he is Lord, of all kings he is King. 
Lullaby, etc. 

There was mickle melody in that child's birth 

All dwellers in heaven's bliss, they made mickle mirth 

Lullaby, etc. 10 

Angels brought their song that night and said unto the child 
"Blessed be thou and so be she that is both meek and mild." 
Lullaby, etc. 

Pray we now to that Child and his Mother dear 
To grant them his blessing that now make good cheer. 15 
Lullaby my litling, my dear son, my sweeting, 
Lullaby my dear heart my own dear darling. 


Lullay, lullay, little child! 
Why weepest thou so sore ? 
Needes must thou weep, 
Thou wert doomed of yore 
Ever to live in sorrow, 
Ever to sigh and strive, 
As thy fathers did ere this 


Whilst they were alive. 

Lullay, lullay, little child! 

Child lullay, lullow! 10 

To this world unknown 

Sadly come art thou. 

Beasts and birds and cattle, 

The fishes in the flood, 

And each thing that liveth 15 

Made of bone and blood, 

When into the world they come 

They do themselves some good, 

All but that poor imp 

That is of Adam's blood. 20 

With care art thou beset; 

Thou knowest naught of this world's wild 

That is before thee set. 

Child, if it betideth 

That Time shall prosper thee, 25 

Think how thou wert fostered 

On thy mother's knee; 

Ever mind thee in thine heart 

Of those thinges three, — 

Whence thou earnest, where thou art, 30 

And what shall come of thee. 

Lullay, lullay, little child! 

Child lullai, lullay! 

With sorrow thou earnest to this world, 

With sorrow shalt wend away. 35 

O ! trust not to this world, 

It is thy fell foe. 

The rich it maketh poor, 

The poor man sick also. 

It turneth woe to weal, 40 


And also weal to woe. 

Trust not man this changing world 

While it turneth so. 

Lullay, lullay, little child! 

The foot is on the wheel, 45 

How 'twill turn thou knowest not, 

Whether to woe or weal. 

Child, thou art a pilgrim 

In wickedness yborn; 

Thou wanderest in this false world, 50 

Look thou well beforn. 

Death shall come with sudden blast 

Out of the darkness hoar, 

Adam's children down to cast, 

Adam he slew before. 55 

Lullay, lullay, little child! 

Adam did woes oppress 

In the land of Paradise 

Through Satan's wickedness 

Child, thou'rt not a pilgrim, 60 

But a helpless guest. 

Thy day already told, 

Thy lot already cast. 

Whether thou shalt wend 

North, or East, or West, 65 

Death shall thee betide, 

With bitter bale in breast. 

Lullay, lullay, little child! 

Child lullay, lullow! 

To this unknown world 70 

Sadly come art thou. 





{Lines. 291-94'/) 

Me thoghte thus, — that hit was May, 
And in the dawenyng I lay, 

(Me mette thus,) in my bed al naked, [7 dreamed] 

And loked forth, for I was waked 

With smale foules a gret hepe, [little birds] 5 

That had affrayed me out of my slepe 
Through noise and swetnesse of her song. [their] 

And as me mette they sate a-mong 
Upon my chambre roof wyth-oute 

Upon the tyles over al a-boute, 10 

And songen, everich in his wyse, 
The moste solempne servyse 
By note, that ever man, I trowe, 

Hadde herd; for som of hem songe lowe [them] 

Som hye, and al of oon acorde. 15 

To telle shortly, at 00 worde, [one] 

i 7 8 


Was never herd so swete a Steven, — 
But hit hadde be a thyng of heven, — 
So mery a soun, so swete entunes, 
That certes, for the toune of Tewnes, 
I nolde but I hadde herd hem synge, 
For al my chambre gan to rynge 
Through syngyng of hir armonye. 
For instrument nor melodye 
Was nowher herd yet half so swete, 
Nor of accorde half so mete; 
For ther was noon of hem that feyned 
To synge, for ech of hem him peyned 
To fynde out mery crafty notes; 
They ne spared not hir throtes. 

[Tunis] 20 




And sooth to seyn my chambre was 
Ful wel depeynted, and with glas 
Were al the wyndowes wel y-glased 
Ful clere, and nat an hole y-crased, 
That to beholde hit was gret joye; 
For hoolly al the storie of Troye 
Was in the glasyng y-wrought thus, 
Of Ector, and of kyng Priamus; 
Of Achilles, and of Lamedon, 
And eke of Medea and of Jasoun; 
Of Paris, Eleyne, and of Lavyne; 
And alle the walles with colours fyne 
Were peynted, bothe text and glose, 
And al the Romaunce of the Rose. 

My wyndowes weren shet echon 
And through the glas the sunne shon 
Upon my bed with bryghte bemes, 
With many glade, gilden stremes; 
And eek the welken was so fair,— 
Blew, bryght, clere was the air, 
And ful attempre forsothe hit was; 








For nother to cold nor hoot hit nas, 

Ne in al the welkene was a clowde. {343) 

'Hit happed that I cam on a day (804) 

In-to a place there that I say [saw] 55 

Trewly the fayrest companye 

Of ladyes, that ever man with ye [eye] 

Had seen to-gedres in 00 place. 

Shal I clepe hyt hap, other grace [call it chance or grace] 

That broghte me ther? Nay, but Fortune 60 

That is to lyen ful commune. [that commonly deceives] 

'Among these ladies thus echoon, [816] 

Soth to seven, I sawgh oon 

That was lyk noon of the route, 

For I dar swere, withoute doute, 

That as the someres sonne bryght 65 

Is fairer, clerer, and hath more lyght 

Than any other planete in heven, 

The mone, or the sterres seven; 

For all the worlde so had she 

Surmounted hem alle of beaute. [surpassed] 70 

T saw hir daunce so comlily, [847] 

Carole and synge so swetely, 
Laughe and pleye so womanly, 

And loke so debonairly, 75 

So goodly speke, and so friendly; 
That certes, I trowe that ever-more 
Nas seyn so blisful a tresore, 

For every heer on hir hede, [hair] 

Soth to seyn, it was not rede, 80 

Ne nouther yelw, ne broun it nas, [yellow] 

Me thoghte most lyk gold it was. 

'And whiche yen my lady hadde! [what eyes] 


Debonair, goode, glade, and sadde, [constant, steady] 

Symple, of goode mochel, noght to wyde, [guileless; of 85 

Ther-to hir look nas not a-syde, -good size] 

Ne overthwert, but beset so wel, [across] 

Hit drew and took up everydel 

Alle that on hir gan be-holde. 

Hir yen semed anoon she wolde 90 

Have mercy, — fooles wenden so, — [would have thought so] 

But hit was never the rather do. 

Hit was no countrefeted thyng, 

Hit was hir owne pure lokyng, 

That the goddesse, dame Nature, 95 

Had made hem opene by mesure, [not too wide] 

And close; for were she never so glad 

Hir lokyng was not foly sprad, [foolishly scattered] 

Ne wildely, thogh that she pleyde; 

But ever me thoghte hir yen seyde, 100 

"By God, my wrathe is al for-yive!" 

'Therwith hir liste so wel to live, 
That dulnesse was of hir a-drad. 
She nas to sobre, ne to glad. 

In alle thynges more mesure [moderation] 105 

Had never, I trowe, creature. {881) 

'Hir throte, as I have now memoire, (P44) 

Semed a round tour of yvoire, no 

Of good gretnesse, and noght to grete. 
And gode, faire, White, she hete.'[i.e., Blanche was called] 



(About 1382) 

. . . But first were chosen foules for to synge, 
As, yeer be yere, was alwey hir usance 
To synge a roundel at hir departynge, 675 

To don to Nature honour and plesaunce. 
The note, I trowe, y-maked was in Fraunce; [air, tune] 
The wordes were swiche as ye may here fynde 
The nexte vers, as I now have in mynde. 

'Now welcom, somer, with thy sonne softe, 680 

That hast this wintres weders overshake 
And driven a-wey the longe nyghtes blake; 

Seynt Valentyn, that art ful hy on lofte, 
Thus syngen smale foules for thy sake 

Now welcom, somer, with thy sonne softe, 685 

That hast this wintres weders overshake. 

Wele han they cause for to gladen ofte, 

Sith ech of hem recovered hath his make; \mate] 

Ful blisful mowe they ben when they awake. 

Now welcom, somer, with thy sonne softe, 690 

That hast this wintres weders overshake 
And driven a-wey the longe nightes blake.' 



(About 1385) 

A thousande tymes I have herd men telle, 
That there is joy in hevene, and peyne in helle, 
And I acorde wel that it is so; 
But, natheles, yet wot I wel also, 

That ther is noon dwellyng in this countree, 5 

That eythir hath in hevene or in helle y-be, 
Ne may of hit noon other weyes witen, 
But as he hath herd seyde, or founde it writen; 
For by assay ther may no man it preve. 

But God forbede but men shulde leve [believe] 10 

Wel more thing than men han seen with eye! 
Men shal not wenen everything a lye 
But-if hymselfe it seeth, or elles dooth; [except, unless] 
For, God wot, thing is never the lasse sooth, 
Thogh every wight ne may it not y-see. 15 

Bernarde, the monke, ne saugh nat al, parde! 

Than mote we to bokes that we fynde, — 
Thurgh which that olde thinges ben in mynde, — 
And to the doctrine of these olde wyse, 

Yeve credence, in every skylful wise, 20 

That tellen of these olde appreved stories, 
Of holynesse, of regnes, of victories, 
Of love, of hate, of other sondry thynges, 
Of whiche I may not maken rehersynges. 
And if that olde bokes were awey, 25 

Y-lorne were of remembraunce the key. [lost] 

Wel ought us, thanne, honouren and beleve 
These bokes, ther we han noon other preve. 


And as for me, though that I konne but lyte, 
On bokes for to rede I me delyte, 30 

And to hem yive I feyth and ful credence, 
And in myn herte have hem in reverence 
So hertely, that ther is game noon [amusement] 

That from my bokes maketh me to goon, 
But it be seldom on the holyday, 35 

Save, certeynly, whan that the month of May 
Is comen, and that I here the foules synge, [birds] 

And that the floures gynnen for to sprynge, — 
Farewel my boke, and my devocion! 

Now have I thanne suche a condicion, 40 

That of alle the floures in the mede, 
Than love I most thise floures white and rede, 
Suche as men callen daysyes in our toun. 
To hem have I so grete afleccioun, 

As I seyde erst, whan comen is the May, 45 

That in my bed ther daweth me no day, 
That I nam up and walkyng in the mede, 
To seen this floure agein the sonne sprede, 
Whan it uprysith erly by the morwe; 

That blisful sighte softneth al my sorwe, 50 

So glad am I, whan that I have presence 
Of it, to doon it alle reverence, 
As she that is of alle flour es flour. 
Fulfilled of al vertue and honour, 

And evere Hike faire, and fresshe of hewe. [alike] 55 

And I love it, and evere ylike newe, [alike] 

And ever shal, til that myn herte dye; 
Al swere I nat, of this I wol nat lye; 
Ther loved no wight hotter in his lyve. 

And whan that it is eve, I renne blyve, [quickly] 60 

As sone as evere the sonne gynneth weste, 
To seen this flour, how it wol go to reste, 
For fere of nyght, so hateth she derknesse! 
Hir chere is pleynly sprad in the brightnesse [face] 


Of the sonne, for ther it wol unclose. 65 

Alias, that I ne had Englyssh, ryme or prose. 
Suffisant this flour to preyse aright! 
But helpeth ye that han konnyng and myght, [skill] 

Ye lovers, that kan make of sentement; [write, compose] 
In this case oghte ye be diligent 70 

To forthren me somewhat in my labour, 
Whethir ye ben with the Leef or with the Flour; 
For wel I wot, that ye han her-biforne [heard before] 
Of makynge ropen, and lad awey the corne; [poetry reaped] 
And I come after, glenyng here and there, 75 

And am ful glad if I may fynde an ere 
Of any goodly word that ye han left. 
And thogh it happen me rehercen eft [after] 

That ye han in your fresshe songes sayede, 
Forbereth me, and beth not evele apayede, [ill pleased] 80 
Syn that ye see I do it in the honour 
Of love, and eke in service of the flour 
Whom that I serve as I have witte or myght. 
She is the clerenesse and the verray lyght, 
That in this derke worlde me wynt and ledyth, [turns] 85 

The herte in-with my sorwful brest yow dredith, [reveres] 
And loveth so sore, that ye ben verrayly 
The maistresse of my witte, and nothing I. 
My worde, my werk, is knyt so in youre bond 
That as an harpe obeieth to the hond, 90 

That maketh it soune after his fyngerynge, 
Ryght so mowe ye oute of myn herte bringe 
Swich vois, ryght as yow lyst, to laughe or pleyne; 
Be ye my gide, and lady sovereyne. 

As to my erthely god, to yowe I calle, 95 

Bothe in this werke, and in my sorwes alle. 
But wherfore that I spake to yive credence 
To olde stories, and doon hem reverence, 
And that men mosten more thyng beleve 
Then they may seen at eye or elles preve, 100 


That shal I seyn, whanne that I see my tyme — 

I may nat al attones speke in ryme. [at once] 

My besy gost, that thursteth alwey newe, [anxious] 

To seen this flour so yong, so fresshe of hewe, 

Constreyned me with so gledy desire, [glowing] 105 

That in myn herte I feele yet the fire, 

That made me to ryse er it wer day, 

And this was now the firste morwe of May, 

With dredful hert, and glad devocion [reverent, full of awe] 

For to ben at the resurreccion no 

(5f this flour, whan that it shulde unclose 

Agayne the sonne, that roos as rede as rose, 

That in the brest was of the beste, that day, [beast, i.e. Taurus] 

That Agenores doghtre ladde away. 

And doun on knes anon-ryght I me sette, 115 

And as I koude, this fresshe flour I grette, 

Knelyng alwey, til it unclosed was, 

Upon the smale, softe, swote gras. [sweet] 

That was with floures swote enbrouded al, [broidered] 

Of swich swetnesse, and swich odour over-al, 120 

That for to speke of gomme, or herbe, or tree, [gum] 

Comparisoun may noon y-maked be ; 

For it surmounteth pleynly alle odoures, 

And of riche beaute alle floures. 

Forgeten had the erthe his pore estate 125 

Of wyntir, that him naked made and mate, [weak] 

And with his swerd of colde so sore greved; 

Now hath the atempresqnne al that releved [mild] 

That naked was, and clad it new agayne. 

The smale foules, of the sesoun fayne, [glad] 130 

That of the panter and the nette ben scaped, [bag-net] 

Upon the foweler, that hem made a-whaped [frightened] 

In wynter, and distroyed hadde hire broode, 

In his dispite hem thoghte it did hem goode 

To synge of hym, and in hir songe dispise 135 

The foule cherle, that, for his coveytise, 


Had hem betrayed with his sophistrye. 

This was hir songe, 'The foweler we deffye, 
And al his crafte.' And somme songen clere 
Layes of love, that joye it was to here, 140 

In worshipynge and in preysing of hir make; [mate] 

And, for the newe blisful somers sake, 
Upon the braunches fill of blosmes softe, 
In hire delyt, they turned hem ful ofte, 

And songen, 'Blessed be Seynt Valentyne! 145 

For on his day I chees you to be myne, 
Withouten repentyng myne herte swete!' 
And therewithal hire bekes gonnen meete. 

And tho that hadde don unkyndenesse, — [those] 

As doth the tydif, for newfangelnesse, — [titmouse] 150 

Besoghte mercy of hir trespassynge, 
And humblely songen hir repentynge, 
And sworen on the blosmes to be trewe, 
So that hire makes wolde upon hem re we, [take pity on them] 
And at the laste maden hir acorde. 155 

Al founde they Daunger for a tyme a lord, [Love's mastery] 
Yet Pitee, thurgh his stronge gentil myght, 
Foryaf, and made Mercy passen Ryght, 
Thurgh Innocence, and ruled Curtesye. 

But I ne clepe it innocence folye, 160 

Ne fals pitee, for vertue is the mene; [mean, average] 
As Ethike seith, in swich maner I mene. 
And thus thise foweles, voide of al malice, 
Acordeden to love, and laften vice 

Of hate, and songen alle of oon acorde, 165 

'Welcome, Somer, oure governour and lorde.' 

And Zepherus and Flora gentilly 
Yaf to the floures, softe and tenderly. 
His swoote breth, and made hem for to sprede, [sweet] 
As god and goddesse of the floury mede. 170 

In whiche me thoght I myghte, day by day, 
Dwellen alwey, the joly month of May, 


Withouten slepe, withouten mete or drynke. 

Adoun fill softely I gan to synke, 

And lenynge on myn elbowe and my syde, 175 

The longe day, I shoop me for to abide, [planned] 

For nothing ellis, and I shal nat lye, 

But for to loke upon the dayesie, 

That men by resoun wel it calle may 

The dayesie, or elles the ye of day, 180 

The emperice, and floure of floures alle. 

I pray to God that faire mote she falle, [good may befall] 

And alle that loven rloures, for hire sake! 

But, natheles, ne wene nat that I make [make poetry] 

In preysing of the Flour agayn the Leef, 185 

No more than of the corne agayn the sheef; 

For as to me nys lever noon, ne lother, 

I nam witholden yit with never nother. [retained by] 

Ne I not who serveth Leef, ne who the Flour, [not i.e. ne wot] 

Wel browken they hir service or labour! [may they enjoy] 

For this thing is al of another tonne, [cask-weight] 191 

Of olde storye, er swiche thinge was begonne. 

Whan that the sonne out of the southe gan weste, 
And that this flour gan close, and goon to reste, 
For derknesse of the nyght, the which she dredde, 195 

Home to myn house full swiftly I me spedde 
To goon to reste, and erly for to ryse, 
To seen this flour to-sprede, as I devyse. 
And in a litel herber that I have, [arbor] 

That benched was on turves fressh y-grave, 200 

I bad men sholde me my couche make; 
For deyntee of the newe someres sake, [jor the sake of enjoying] 
I had hem strawen rloures on my bed. 

Whan I was leyde, and hadde myn eyen hed, [hid] 
I fel on slepe, in-with an houre or two. 205 

Me mette how I lay in the medewe tho, [7 dreamed] 

To seen this flour that I love so and drede; [revere] 

And from a-fer come walkyng in the mede 


The god of Love, and in his hand a quene, 

And she was clad in real habite grene; [royal] 210 

A fret of gold she hadde next her heer. [ornament] 

And upon that a white crowne she beer, 

With flourouns smale, and I shal nat lye, [florets 

For al the worlde ryght as a da;esye 

Y-corouned is with white leves lyte, 215 

So were the flourouns of hire coroune white; 

For of o perle, fyne, oriental, [one] 

Hire white coroune was i-maked al, 

For which the white coroune above the grene 

Made hire lyke a daysie for to sene, 220 

Considered eke hir fret of golde above. 

Y-clothed was this mighty god of Love 
In silke enbrouded, ful of grene greves, [groves] 

In -with a fret of rede rose leves, 

The fresshest syn the worlde was first bygonne. 225 

His gilte here was corowned with a sonne 
In stede of golde, for hevynesse and wyghte; 
Therwith me thoght his face shon so brighte 
That wel unnethes myght I him beholde; [uneasily, scarcely] 
And in his hande me thoght I saugh him holde 230 

Two firy dartes as the gledes rede, [gleeds, brands] 

And aungelyke his wynges saugh I sprede. 
And, al be that men seyn that blynd is he, 
Algate me thoghte that he myghte se; [all the same] 
For sternely on me he gan byholde, 235 

So that his loking doth myn herte colde. 
And by the hande he helde this noble quene, 
Crowned with white, and clothed al in grene, 
So womanly, so benigne, and so meke, 

That in this world, thogh that men wolde seke, 240 

Half hire beute shulde men nat fynde 
In creature that formed is by Kynde. [Nature] 

And therfore may I seyn, as thynketh me, [say] 

This song in preysyng of this lady fre. 


Hyde Absalon, thy gilte tresses clere; 145 

Ester, ley thou thy mekenesse al adoun; 

Hyde, Jonathas, al thy frendly manere; 

Penalopee, and Marcia Catoun, 

Make of youre wifhode no comparysoun; 

Hyde ye youre beautes, Ysoude and Eleyne; 150 

My lady comith, that al this may disteyne. [stain, dim] 

Thy faire body lat it nat appere, 

Lavyne; and thou Lucresse of Rome toun 

And Polixene, that boghten love so dere, 

And Cleopatre, with all thy passyoun, 255 

Hyde ye your trouthe of love, and your renoun, 

And thou, Tesbe, that hast of love suche peyne; 

My lady comith, that al this may disteyne. 

Hero, Dido, Laudomia, alle yfere, [altogether] 

And Phillis, hangyng for thy Demophon, 260 

And Canace, espied by thy chere, 

Ysiphile, betraysed with Jason, 

Maketh of your trouthe neythir boost ne soun, 

Nor Ypermystre, or Adriane, ye tweyne; 

My lady cometh, that al thys may dysteyne. 

This balade may ful wel y-songen be, 
As I have seyde erst, by my lady free; 
For certeynly al thise mowe nat suffice 
To apperen wyth my lady in no wyse. 

For as the sonne wole the fire disteyne, 270 

So passeth al my lady sovereyne, 
That is so good, so faire, so debonayre, 

I prey to God that ever falle hire faire. 

For nadde comfort ben of hire presence, [ne hadde, i. e. had not] 

I hadde ben dede, withouten any defence, 275 


For drede of Loves wordes, and his chere, 
As, when tyme is, herafter ye shal here. 


(Begun 1 386-1387) 

Whan that Aprille with hise shoures soote [sweet] 

The droghte of March hath perced to the roote, 
And bathed every veyne in swich licour [moisture] 

Of which vertu engendred is the flour; 

Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth 5 

Inspired hath in every holt and heeth [wood] 

The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne [sprouts] 

Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne, 
And smale foweles maken melodVe, 

That slepen al the nyght with open eye, 10 

(So priketh hem Nature in hir corages,) [hearts] 

Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages, 
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes, 
To feme halwes, kowthe in sondry londes; [distant saints] 
And specially, from every shires ende known,] 15 

Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende, 
The hooly blissful martir for to seke, 
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke. [sick] 

Bifil that in that seson on a day, 
In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay, 20 

Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage 

To Caunterbury with ful devout corage, [heart] 

At nyght were come into that hostelrye 
Wei nyne-and-twenty in a compaignye, 


Of sondry folk, by aventure y-falle [by chance] 25 

In felaweshipe, and pilgrimes were they alle, 

That toward Caunterbury wolden ryde. 

The chambres and the stables weren wyde, 

And wel we weren esed atte beste. [entertained] 

And shortly, whan the sonne was to reste, 30 

So hadde I spoken with hem everychon, 

That I was of hir felaweshipe anon, 

And made forward erly for to ryse, [agreement] 

To take oure wey, ther as I yow devyse. 

But natheless, whil I have tyme and space, 35 

Er that I ferther in this tale pace, 
Me thynketh it accordaunt to resoun 
To telle yow al the condici'oun 
Of ech of hem, so as it semed me, 

And whiche they weren, and of what degree, 40 

And eek in what array that they were inne; 
And at a Knyght than wol I first begynne. 

A knyght ther was and that a worthy man, 
That fro the tyme that he first bigan 

To riden out, he loved chivalrie, 45 

Trouthe and honour, fredom and curteisie. 
Ful worthy was he in his lordes werre, 
And thereto hadde he riden, no man ferre, 
As wel in cristendom as in hethenesse, 

And ever honoured for his worthynesse. 50 

At Alisaundre he was whan it was wonne; 
Ful ofte tyme he hadde the bord bigonne [table] 
Aboven alle naci'ons in Pruce. 

In Lettow hadde he reysed and in Ruce, — [traveled] 

No cristen man so ofte of his degree. 55 

In Gernade at the seege eek hadde he be 
Of Algezir, and riden in Belmarye. 
At Lyeys was he, and at Satalye, 
Whan they were wonne; and in the Grete See 


At many a noble aryve hadde he be. [sea-expedition] 60 

At mortal battailles hadde he been fiftene, 
And foughten for oure feithe at Tramyssene 
In lystes thries, and ay slayn his foo. 
This ilke worthy knyght hadde been also 
Somtyme with the lord of Palatye 65 

Again another hethen in Turkve; 
And evermoore he hadde a sovereyn prys. 
And though that he were worthy, he was wys. 
And of his port as meeke as is a mayde. 
He never yet no vileynye ne sayde, 70 

In al his lyf, unto no maner wight. 
He was a verray parfit, gentil knyght. 

But for to tellen yow of his array, 
His hors weren goode, but he ne was nat gay; 
Of fustian he wered a gypon [doublet] 75 

Al bismotered with his habergeon [hauberk, coat oj mail] 
For he was late y-come from his viage, 
And wente for to doon his pilgrymage. 

With hym ther was his sone, a yong Squiek, 
A lovyere and a lusty bacheler, 80 

With lokkes crulle as they were leyd in presse. 
Of twenty yeer of age he was, I gesse, 
Of his stature he was of even lengthe, 
And wonderly delyvere and greet of strengthe; [quick] 
And he hadde been somtyme in chyvachie, [campaign] 85 
In Flaundres, in Artoys and Pycardie, 
And born hym weel, as of so litel space, 
In hope to stonden in his lady grace. 
Embrouded was he, as it were a meede [embroidered] 
Al ful of fresshe floures whyte and reede; 90 

Syngynge he was, or floytynge, al the day; 
He was as fressh as is the monthe of May. 
Short was his gowne, with sieves longe and wyde; 
Wei koude he sitte on hors and faire ryde; 
He koude songes make and wel endite, 95 


Juste and eek daunce and weel purtreye and write, [draw or 

So hoote he lovede that by nyghtertale [night-time] paint] 

He sleep namoore than dooth a nyghtyngale. 

Curteis he was, lowely and servysable, 

And carf biforn his fader at the table. ioo 

A Yeman hadde he and servant z namo [no more] 

At that tyme, for hym liste ride soo; 
And he was clad in cote and hood of grene. 
A sheef of pocock arwes, bright and kene, [peacock] 

Under his belt he bar ful thriftily — 105 

Wei koude he dresse his takel yemanly; 
His arwes drouped noght with fetheres lowe — 
And in his hand he baar a myghty bowe. 
A not-heed hadde he, with a broun visage. [crop-head] 
Of woodecraft wel koude he al the usage. [knew] no 

Upon his arm he baar a gay bracer, [arm-guard] 

And by his syde a swerd and a bokeler. 
And on that oother syde a gay daggere, 
Harneised wel and sharpe as point of spere; 
A Cristophere on his brest of silver sheene; [shone] 115 

An horn he bar, the bawdryk was of grene. [shoulder-belt] 
A forster was he, soothly as I gesse. 

Ther was also a Nonne, a Priokesse, 
That of hir smylyng was ful symple and coy; 
Hire grettest ooth was but by seinte Loy, 120 

And she was cleped madame Eglentyne. [called] 

Ful weel she soong the service dyvyne, 
Entuned in hir nose ful semely, 

And Frenssh she spake ful faire and fetisly [neatly] 

After the scole of Stratford-atte-Bowe, 125 

For Frenssh of Parys was to hire unknowe. 
At mete wel y-taught was she with-alle, 
She leet no morsel from hir lippes falle, 
Ne wette hir fyngres in hir sauce depe. 
Wel koude she carie a morsel and wel kepe, 130 


That no drope ne fille upon hire breste; f/e//] 

In curteisie was set ful muchel hir leste. [joy] 

Hire over-lippe wyped she so clene, 

That in hir coppe ther was no ferthyng sene 

Of grece, whan she dronken hadde hir draughte. 135 

Ful semely after hir mete she raughte. [reached] 

And sikerly she was of greet desport. [surely] 

And ful plesaunt and amyable of port. 

And peyned hire to countrefete cheere [/oofo] 

Of Court, and been estatlich of manere, [dignified] 140 

And to ben holden digne of reverence. 

But for to speken of hire conscience, [sympathy] 

She was so charitable and so pitous 

She wolde wepe if that she saugh a mous 

Kaught in a trappe, if it were deed or bledde. 145 

Of smale houndes hadde she that she fedde 

With rosted flessh, or milk and wastel breed; [fine white bread] 

But soore wepte she if oon of hem were deed, 

Or if men smoot it with a yerde smerte; [slick smartly] 

And al was conscience and tendre herte. 150 

Ful semyly hir wympul pynched was; [breast-cover] 
Hire nose tretys, hir eyen greye as glas, [shapely] 

Hir mouth ful smal and there-to softe and reed, 
But sikerly she hadde a fair forheed; 

It was almost a spanne brood I trowe, 155 

For, hardily, she was not undergrowe. [surely] 

Ful fetys was hir clbke, as I was war; [neai] 

Of smal coral aboute hire arm she bar 
A peire of bedes, gauded al with grene, 
And ther-on heng a brooch of gold ful sheene, 160 

On which ther was first write a crowned A, 
And after Amor vincit omnia. 

Another Nonne with hire hadde she 
That was hir Chapeleyne, and Preestes thre. 

A Monk ther was, a fair for the maistrie, 165 

An outridere, that lovede venerie; [hunting] 


A manly man, to been an abbot able. 

Fill many a deyntee hors hadde he in stable, 

And whan he rood men myghte his brydel heere 

Gynglen in a whistlynge wynd als cleere, 170 

And eeke as loude as dooth the chapel belle. 

Ther as this lord was keepere of the celle, 

The reule of seint Maure or of seint Beneit, 

By-cause that it was olde and som-del streit, — [strict] 

This ilke Monk leet olde thynges pace, 175 

And heeld after the newe world a space. 

He yaf nat of that text a pulled hen [plucked hen] 

That seith that hunters beth nat hooly men, 

Ne that a Monk whan he is reechelees [without direction] 

Is likned til a fissh that is waterlees: [to] 180 

This is to seyn, a Monk out of his cloystre. 

But thilke text heeld he nat worth an oystre; [that same] 

And I seyde his opini'oun was good. 

What sholde he studie and make hymselven wood, [mad] 

Upon a book in cloystre alwey to poure, 185 

Or swynken with his handes and laboure, [toil] 

As Austyn bit? How shal the world be served? [bids] 

Lat Austyn have Uis swynk to him reserved. 

Therfore he was a prikasour aright; [hard rider] 

Grehoundes he hadde; as swift as flight: 190 

Of prikyng and of hunting for the hare 

Was al his lust, for no cost wolde he spare. 

I seigh his sieves y-purfiled at the hond [trimmed] 

With grys, and that the fyneste of a lond; [gray fur] 

And for to festne his hood under his chyn 195 

He hadde of gold y-wroght a curious pyn, 

A love knotte in the gretter ende ther was. 

His heed was balled that shoon as any glas, 

And eek his face as he hadde been enoynt. 

He was a lord ful fat and in good poynt; 200 

Hise eyen stepe and rollynge in his heed, [protruding] 

That stemed as a forneys of a leed; [glowed like furnace 


His bootes souple, his hors in greet estaat. under caldron] 

Now certeinly he was a fair prelaat. 

He was nat pale, asa forpynedgoost: [tormented] 205 

A fat swan loved he best of any roost; 

His palfrey was as broun as is a berye. 

A Feere ther was, a wantowne and a merye, 
A lymytour, a ful solempne man; 

In alle the ordres foure is noon that kan 210 

So muchel of daliaunce and fair langage; 
He hadde maad ful many a manage 
Of yonge wommen at his owene cost: 
Unto his ordre he was a noble post. 

Ful wel biloved and famulier was he 215 

With frankeleyns over al in his contree; 
And eek with worthy wommen of the toun, 
For he hadde power of confess'ioun, 
As seyde hym-self, moore than a curat, 

For of his ordre he was licenciat. 220 

Ful swetely herde he confess'ioun, 
And pleasaunt was his absolucioun. 
He was an esy man to yeve penaunce 
Ther as he wiste to have a good pitaunce; 
For unto a poure ordre for to yive 225 

Is signe that a man is wel y-shryve; 
For, if he yaf, he dorste make avaunt [boast] 

He wiste that a man was repentaunt: 
For many a man so harde is of his herte 
He may nat wepe al thogh hym soore smerte, 230 

Therfore in stede of wepynge and preyeres 
Men moote yeve silver to the poure freres. 
His typet was ay farsed full of knyves [hood] [stuffed] 

And pynnes for to yeven yonge wyves; 
And certeinly he hadde a murye note; 235 

Wel koude he synge and pleyen on a rote: [small harp] 


Of yeddynges he baar outrely the pris; [songs] 

His nekke whit was as the flour-de-lys, 

Ther-to he strong was as a champioun. 

He knew the tavernes well in al the toun 240 

And everich hostiler and tappestere [barmaid] 

Bet than a lazar or a beggestere; [leper] [beggar] 

For unto swich a worthy man as he 

Acorded nat, as by his facultee, 

To have with sike lazars aqueyntaunce; 245 

It is nat honeste, it may nat avaunce 

For to deelen with no swiche poraille; [poor folks] 

But al with riche and selleres of vitaille. 

And over al, ther as profit sholde arise, 

Curteis he was and lowely of servyse, 250 

Ther nas no man nowher so vertuous! 

He was the beste beggere in his hous, 

For thogh a wydwe hadde noght a sho, [shoe] 

So plesaunt was his In principio, 

Yet wolde he have a ferthyng er he wente: 255 

His purchase was wel bettre than his rente. [profit,] 

And rage he koude, as it were right a whelpe. 

In love-dayes ther koude he muchel helpe. 

For ther he was not lyk a cloysterer 

With a thredbare cope, as is a poure scoler, 260 

But he was lyk a maister, or a pope; 

Of double worstede was his semycope, [short cloak] 

That rounded as a belle out of the presse. 

Somwhat he lipsed for his wantownesse, 

To make his Englissh sweet upon his tonge, 265 

And in his harpyng, whan that he hadde songe, 

His even twynkled in his heed aryght 

As doon the sterres in the frosty nyght. 

This worthy lymytour was cleped Huberd. 

A Marchant was' ther with a forked berd, 270 

In motteleye, and live on horse he sat; 
Upon his heed a Flaunderyssh bevere hat; 


His bootes clasped faire and fetisly; 

His resons he spake ful solempnely, 

Sowynge alway thencrees of his wynnyng. 275 

He wolde the see were kept for any thing [at any cost] 

Bitwixe Middelburgh and Orewelle. 

Wei koude he in eschaunge sheeldes selle. 

This worthy man ful wel his wit bisette, 

Ther wiste no wight that he was in dette, 280 

So estatly was he of his governaunce 

With his bargaynes and with his chevyssaunce, [loans ( 

For sothe he was a worthy man with-alle, 

But sooth to seyn I noot how men hym calle. [know not] 

A Clekk ther was of Oxenford also 285 

That unto logyk hadde long y-go. 
As leene was his hors as is a rake. 
And he nas nat right fat, I undertake, 
But looked holwe, and ther-to sobrely; 

Ful thredbare was his overeste courtepy; [short over-coat] 290 
For he hadde geten hym yet no benefice, 
Ne was so worldly for to have office; 
For hym was levere have at his beddes heed 
Twenty bookes clad in blak or reed 

Of Aristotle and his philosophie, 295 

Than robes riche, or fithele, or gay sautrie: [fiddle] [harp] 
But al be that he was a philosophre, [albeit, although] 

Yet hadde he but litel gold in cofre; 
But al that he myghte of his freendes hente [get] 

On bookes and his lernynge he it spente, 300 

And bisily gan for the soules preye 
Of hem that yaf hym wher-with to scoleye. [to study] 
Of studie took he moost cure and moost heed, [care] 

Noght o word spak he moore than was neede, [one] 

And that was seyd in forme and reverence, 305 

And short and quyk and ful of hy sentence, [meaning] 


Sownynge in moral vertu was his speche, [tending to] 
And gladly w'olde he lerne and gladly teche. 

A. Sergeant of the La we, war and wys, [wary, prudent] 
That often hadde been at the Parvys, [Church-porch,] 310 

Ther was also, ful riche of excellence. 
Discreet he was, and of greet reverence; 
He semed swich, hise wordes weren so wise. 
Justice he was full often in Assise, 

By patente and by pleyn commissioun. [full] 315 

For his science and for his heigh renoun, 
Of fees and robes hadde he many oon; 
So greet a purchasour was nowher noon, [prosecutor] 
Al was fee symple to hym in effect, 

His purchasyng myghte nat been infect. [invalidated,] 320 
Nowher so bisy a man as he ther nas, 
And yet he semed bisier than he was. 
In termes hadde he caas and doomes alle [cases and judg- 
That from the tyme of kyng William were falle; ments] 
Ther-to he coude endite and make a thyng. 
Ther koude no wight pynchen at his writyng; [find fault] 325 
And every statut coude he pleyn by rote. 
He rood but hoomly in a medlee cote, 
Girt with a ceint of silk with barres smale; [girdle] 

Of his array telle I no lenger tale. 330 

A Frankeleyn was in his compaignye. 
Whi-t was his berd as is a dayseye, 
Of his complexioun he was sangwyn. 
Wei loved he by the morwe a sope in wyn; 
To lyven in delit was evere his wone, [custom] 335 

For he was Epicurus owene sone, 

That heeld opini'oun that pleyn delit [full] 

Was verraily felicitee parfit. 
An housholdere, and that a greet, was he: 
Seint Julian was he in his contree; 340 


His breed, his ale, was alweys after oon; 

A better envyned man was nowher noon, [stored with wine] 

Withoute bake mete was never his hous, 

Of fissh and fiessh, and that so plenteuous 

It snewed in his hous of mete and drynke. 345 

Of alle deyntees that men koude thynke 

After the sondry sesons of the yeer, 

So chaunged he his mete and his Soper. 

Ful many a fat partrich hadde he in muwe [coop] 

And many a breem and may a luce in stuwe. [fish-pound] 350 

Wo was his cook but if his sauce were 

Poynaunt and sharpe and redy al his geere. 

His table dormant in his halle alway, [fixed table] 

Stood redy covered al the longe day. 

At sessiouns ther was he lord and sire; 355 

Ful ofte tyme he was knyght of the shire. 

An anlaas, and a gipser al of silk, [dagger] [pouch] 

Heeng at his girdel, wkit as morne milk; 

A shirreve hadde he been, and a countour. [auditor] 

Was nowher such a worthy vavasour. [land-holder] 360 

An Haberdasshere, and a Carpenter, 

A Wee-be, a Dyere, and a Tapycer, 

And they were clothed alle in o lyveree [one] 

Of a solempne and greet fraternitee; [i.e., a guild] 

Ful fressh and newe hir geere apiked was; [trimmed, 365 

Hir knyves were chaped noght with bras, adorned] 

But al with silver, wroght ful clene and weel, 

Hire girdles and hir pouches everydeel. [every bit, wholly] 

Wei semed ech of hem a fair burgeys 

To sitten in a yeldehalle, on a deys. [guildhall: dais] 370 

Everich for the wisdom that he kan [each: he knew] 

Was shaply for to been an alderman. [fit to be] 

For catel hadde they ynogh and rente, [goods; and income] 

And eek hir wyves wolde it wel assente; 

And elles certeyn were they to blame. 375 


It is fill fair to been y-cleped Madame, [be called] 

And goon to vigilies al bifore, [in front of all] 

And have a mantel roialliche y-bore. 

A Cook they hadde with hem for the nones, 
To boille the chiknes with the marybones, 380 

And poudre-marchant tart and galyngale; [i.e., a sharp and 
Wei koude he knowe a draughte of Londoun ale; a sweet spite] 
He koude rooste and sethe and boille and frye, 
Maken mortreux and wel bake a pye. 

But greet harm was it, as it thoughte me, 385 

That on his shyne a mormal hadde he. [an open sore] 

For blankmanger, that made he with the beste. 

A Shipman was ther, wonyng fer by weste; [dwelling] (388) 
For aught I woot he was of Dertemouthe. 
He rood upon a rouncy as he kouthe, [farm-horse] 390 

In a gowne of faldyng to the knee. 
A daggere hangyng on a laas hadde he [cord] 

Aboute his nekke under his arm adoun. 
The hoote somer hadde maad his hewe al broun; 
And certeinly he was a good f el awe. 395 

Ful many a draughte of wine hadde he y-drawe 
FroBurdeuxwardwhil that the Chapman sleepe. [merchant] 
Of nyce conscience took he no keepe. [heed] 

If that he f aught, and hadde the hyer hond, 
By water he sent hem hoom to every iond. 400 

But of his craft to rekene wel his tydes, 
His stremes and his daungers hym bisides, 
His herberwe and his moone, his lode-menage, [pilotage] 
Ther nas noon swich from Hulle to Cartage. 
Hardy he was, and wys to undertake: 405 

With many a tempest hadde his berd ben shake; 
He knew wel alle the havenes, as they were, 
From Gootlond to the Cape of Fynystere, [Isle of Gottland] 


And every cryke in Britaigne and in Spayne. 

His barge y-cleped was the Maudelayne. 410 

With us ther was a Doctour of Phistk; 

In all this world ne was ther noon hym lik 

To speke of phisik and of surgerye; 

For he was grounded in astronomye. 

He kepte his paciient a ful greet deel [watched] 415 

In houres, by his magyk natureel. [astrological hours] 

Wei koude he fortunen the ascendent 

Of his ymages for his pacient. 

He knew the cause of everich maladye, 

Were it of hoot, or cold, or moyste, or drye, 420 

And where they engendred and of what humour; 

He was a verray parfit praktisour. 

The cause y-knowe and of his harm the roote, 

Anon he yaf the sike man his boote. [remedy] 

Ful redy hadde he his apothecaries 425 

To send him drogges and his letuaries, [syrup and powder] 

For- ech of hem made oother for to wynne, 

Hir frendshipe nas nat newe to bigynne. 

Wei knew he the olde Esculapius 

And Deyscorides, and eke Rufus, 430 

Olde Ypocras, Haly and Galyen, 

Serapion, Razis and Avycen, 

Averrois, Damascien and Constantyn, 

Bernard and Gatesden and Gilbertyn. 

Of his diete mesurable was he. 435 

For it was of no superfluitee, 

But of greet norissyng and digestible. 

His studie was but litel on the Bible. 

In sangwyn and in pers he clad was al, [red and blue] 

Lyned with taffata and with sendal. 440 

And yet he was but esy of dispence, [moderate in spending] 

He kepte that he wan in pestilence. 


For gold in phisik is a cordial, 
Therfore he lovede gold in special. 

A. Good Wif was ther of biside Bathe, 445 

But she was som-del deef, and that was scathe, [a pily] 

Of clooth-makyng she hadde swich an haunt [skill] 

She passed hem of Ypres and of Gaunt. 

In al the parisshe wif ne was ther noon 

That to the offrynge bifore hire sholde goon; 450 

And if ther dide, certeyn so wrooth was she, 

That she was out of alle charitee. 

Hir coverchiefs ful fyne weren of ground, — [head-dresses] 

I dorste swere they weyeden ten pound, — 

That on a Sonday weren upon hir heed. 455 

Hir hosen weren of fyn scarlet reed, 

Ful streite y-teyd, and shoes ful moyste and newe; 

Boold was hir face, and fair, and reed of he we. 

She was a worthy womman al hir lyve, 

Housbondes at chirche dore she hadde fyve, 460 

Withouten oother compaignye in youthe, — 

But ther-of nedeth nat to speke as nowthe, — [tww] 

And thries hadde she been at Jerusalem; 

She hadde passed many a straunge strem; 

At Rome she hadde been, and at Boloigne, 465 

In Galice at Seint Jame, and at Coloigne, 

She koude muchel of wandrynge by the weye. 

Gat-tothed was she, soothly for to seye. [with teeih set apart] 

Upon an amblere esily she sat, 

Y-wympled wel, and on hir heed an hat 470 

A3 brood as is a bokeler or targe; 

A foot mantel aboute her hipes large, 

And on hire feet a paire of spores sharpe. 

In felaweship wel koude she laughe and carpe; [chatter] 

Of remedies of love she knew per chaunce, 475 

For she koude of that art the olde daunce. 


A goodman was ther of religioun, 
And was a Poure Persoun of a Toun; 
But riche he was of hooly thoght and werk; 
He was also a lerned man, a clerk, 480 

That Cristes Gospel trewely wolde preche 
His parisshens devoutly wolde he teche. 
Benygne he was and wonder diligent, 
And in adversitee ful pacient; 

And swich he was y-preved ofte sithes. [proved] [times] 485 
Ful looth were hym to cursen for his tithes, 
But rather wolde he yeven out of doubte, 
Unto his poure parisshens aboute, 

Of his offryng and eek of his substaunce: 490 

He koude in litel thyng have suffisaunce. 
Wyd was his parisshe and houses fer asonder, 
But he ne lafte nat for reyn ne thonder, 
In siknesse nor in meschief to visite 
The ferreste in his parisshe, muche and lite, 
Upon his feet, and in his hand a staf . 495 

This noble ensample to his sheepe he yaf 
That firste he wroghte and afterward he taughte. 
Out of the gospel he tho wordes caughte, [those] 

And this figure he added eek therto, 

That if gold ruste what shal iren doo ? 500 

For if a preest be foul, on whom we truste, 
No wonder is a lewed man to ruste; [unlearned] 

And shame it is, if a prest take keepe, 
A shiten shepherde and a clene sheepe. 

Wei oghte a preest ensample for to yive 505 

By his clennesse how that his sheepe sholde lyve. 
He sette nat his benefice to hyre 
And leet his sheepe encombred in the myre, 
And ran to Londoun, unto Seint Poules, 
To seken hyn a chaunterie for soules; [chantry] 510 

Or with a bretherhed to been withholde, [supported] 

But dwelte at hoom and kepte wel his folde, 


So that the wolf ne made it nat myscarie, — 

He was a shepherde, and noght a mercenarie 

And though he hooly were and vertuous, 515 

He was to synful man nat despitous, [scornful] 

Ne of his speche daungerous ne digne, 

But in his techyng descreet and benygne, 

To drawen folk to hevene by fairnesse, 

By good ensample, this was his bisynesse; 520 

But it were any persone obstinat, 

What so he were, of heigh or lough estat, 

Hym wolde he snybben sharply for the nonys. [reprove] 

A bettre preest I trowe that nowher noon ys; 

He waited after no pompe and reverence, 525 

Ne maked him a spiced conscience, 

But Crist es'loore, and his Apostles twelve, 

He taughte, but first he folwed it hymselve. 

With hym ther was a Plowman, was his brother, 
That hadde y-lad of dong ful many a f other, — [cart-load] 530 
A trewe swynkere and a good was he, [laborer] 

Lyvynge in pees and parfit charitee. 
God loved he best, with al his hoole herte, 
At alle tymes, thogh him gamed or smerte, [in joy or pain] 
And thanne his neighebore right as hymselve. 535 

He wolde thresshe, and therto dyke and delve, 
For Crist es sake, for every poure wight, 
Withouten hire if it lay in his myght. 

His tithes payde he ful faire and wel, er!y] 

Bothe of his propre swynk and his catel. [labor and prop- 540 
In a tabard he rood upon a mere. [sort-coat] 

Ther was also a Reve and a Miller. 
A Somnour and a Pardoneb also, 
A Maunciple and myself, — ther were namo. 

The Millere was a stout carl for the nones, 545 

Ful byg was he of brawn and eek of bones; 
That proved wel for over-al, ther he cam, 


At wrastlynge he wolde have awey the ram. 

He was short-sholdred, brood, a thikke knarre, [knot] 

Ther nas no dore that he nolde heve of harre, [hinge] 550 

Or breke it at a rennyng with his heed. 

His berd, as any sowe or fox, was reed, 

And therto brood, as though it were a spade. 

Upon the cope right of his nose he hade [lip] 

A werte, and thereon stood a toft of herys, 555 

Reed as the brustles of a sowes erys; 

His nosethirles blake were and wyde; 

A swerd and a bokeler bar he by his syde; 

His mouth as wyde was as a greet forneys, 

He was a janglere and a goliardeys, [loud and ribald 560 

And that was moost of synne and harlotries. jester] 

Wei koude he stelen corn and tollen thries, [charge thrice] 

And yet he hadde a thombe of golde, pardee. 

A whit cote and a blew hood wered he. 

A baggepipe wel koude he blowe and sowne, 565 

And therwithal he broghte us out of towne. 

A gentil Maunciple was ther of a temple, 
Of which achatours myghte take exemple [buyers, caterers] 
For to be wise in byynge of vitaille; 
For, wheither that he payde or took by taille, [tally, 570 

i.e., charged the goods] 
Algate he wayted so in his achaat [always: watched: buying] 
That he was ay biforn and in good staat. [always before others] 
Now is nat that of God a ful fair grace ^ 

That swich a lewed mannes wit shal pace [ignorant] 
The wisdom of an heepe of lerned men? 575 

Of maistres hadde he mo than thries ten, 
That weren of lawe expert and curious, 
Of whiche ther weren a duszeyne in that hous 
Worthy to been stywardes of rente and lond 
Of any lord that is in Engelond, 580 


To maken hym lyve by his propre good [on his own means] 
In honour dettelees, but he were wood, [without debt: mad] 
Or lyve as scarsly as hym list desire; 
And able for to helpen al a shire 

In any caas that myghte falle or happe; 585 

And yet this Manciple sette hir aller cappe. [i.e., out- 
witted them all] 
The Reve was a sclendre colerik man 
His berd was shave as ny as ever he kan; 
His heer was by his erys round y-shorn, 
His top was doked lyk a preest biforn, 590 

Ful longe were his legges and ful lene, 
Y-lyk a staf, ther was no calf y-sene. 
Wei koude he kepe a gerner and a bynne, 
Ther was noon auditour koude on him wynne. 
Wei wiste he, by the droghte and by the reyn, 595 

The yeldynge of his seed and of his greyn. 
His lordes sheepe, his neet, his dayerye, [cattle] 

His swyn, his hors, his stoor, and his pultrye, [jarm-stock] 
Was hoolly in this reves governyng, 

And by his covenant yaf the rekenyng 600 

Syn that his lord was twenty yeer of age; 
Ther koude no man brynge hym in arrerage. 
There nas baillif, ne hierde, nor oother hyne, [herdsman: 

hind: servant] 
That he ne knew his sleighte and his covyne; [trickery and 
They were adrad of hym as of the deeth. deceit] 605 

His wonyng was ful faire upon an heeth, [house] 

With grene trees y-shadwed was his place. 
He koude bettre than his lord purchase. 
Ful riche he was a-stored pryvely, [stocked, provided] 

His lord wel koude he plesen subtilly 610 

To yeve and lene hym of his owene good [give and lend] 
And have a thank, and yet a gowne and hood. 
In youthe he lerned hadde a good myster, [craft] 

He was a wel good wrighte, a carpenter. 


This Reve sat upon a ful good stot, [cob] 615 

That was al pomely grey, and highte Scot; [dappled] 

A long surcote of pers upon he hade, [blue] 

And by his syde he baar a rusty blade. 

Of Northfolk was this Reve of which I telle, 

Biside a toun men clepen Baldeswelle. 620 

Tukked he was as is a frere, aboute, 

And ever he rood the hyndreste of oure route, [hindermost] 

A Somonour was ther with us in that place, 
That hadde a fyr-reed cherubynnes face, 
For sawcefleem he was, with eyen narwe. [pimpled] 625 
As hoot he was, and lecherous, as a sparwe, 
With scaled browes blake and piled berd, — [scabby] [patchy] 
Of his visage children were aferd. ... 
Ther nas quyk-silver, lytarge, ne brymstoon, [white lead] 
Boras, ceruce, ne oille of Tartre noon, [borax: white lead] 630 
Ne oynement that wolde dense and byte, 
That hym myghte helpen of the whelkes white 
Nor of the knobbes sittynge on his chekes. 
Wei loved he garleek, oynons, and eke lekes, 
And for to drynken strong wyn, reed as blood; 635 

Thanne wolde he speke, and crie as he were wood, [demented] 
And whan that he wel dronken hadde the wyn, 
Than wolde he speke no word but Latyn. 
A fewe termes hadde he, two or thre, [i.e., legal phrases] 
That he had lerned out of som decree, — 640 

No wonder is, he herde it al the day, 
And eek ye knowen wel how that a jay 
Kan clepen Watte as wel as kan the^pope. [can call 

Wat, or Walter] 
But whoso koude in oother thyng hym grope, [test, examine] 
Thanne hadde he spent al his philosophic; 645 

Ay Questio quid juris wolde he crie. 
He was a gentil harlot and a kynde; [fellow, knave] 

A bettre felawe sholde men noght fynde. . . . 


A gerland hadde he set upon his heed, 666 

As greet as it were for an ale stake; 

A bokeleer hadde he maad him of a cake, [i.e., loaf of bread] 

With hym ther rood a gentil Pardoner 
Of Rouncivale, his freend and his compeer, 670 

That streight was comen fro the court of Rome. 
Ful loude he soong Com hider, love to me! 
This Somonour bar to hym a stif burdoun, [strong bass] 
Was never trompe of half so greet a soun. 
This Pardoner hadde heer as yelow as wex 675 

But smothe it heeng as dooth a strike of flex; [hank of ftax] 
By ounces henge his lokkes that he hadde, 
And therwith he his shuldres overspradde. 
But thynne it lay by colpons oon and oon; [shreds] 

But hood, for jolitee, ne wered he noon, 680 

For it was trussed up in his walet. 

Hym thoughte he rood al of the newe jet; [fashion] 

Dischevelee, save his cappe, he rood al bare. 
Swiche glarynge eyen hadde he as an hare, 
A vernycle hadde he sowed upon his cappe; 685 

His walet lay biforn hym in his lappe 

Bret-ful of pardon, comen from Rome al hoot. [brimful] 
A voys he hadde as smal as hath a goot; . . . 
But of his craft, fro Berwyk unto Ware 
Ne was ther swich another pardoner, 

For in his male he hadde a pilwe-beer, [wallet] [pillow-case] 
Which that, he seyde, was oure lady veyl; 695 

He seyde he hadde a gobet of the seyl [shred] 

That Seinte Peter hadde, whan that he wente 
Upon the see, til Jhesu Crist hym hente. [caught] 

He hadde a croys of latoun, ful of stones, [pinchbeck] 

And in a glas he hadde pigges bones. 700 

But with thise relikes, whan that he fond 
A poure person dwellynge upon lond, 


Upon a day he gat hym moore moneye 

Than that the person gat in monthes tweye; 

And thus with feyned flaterye and japes [tricks] 705 

He made the person and the peple his apes. 

But, trewely to tellen atte laste, 

He was in chirche a noble ecclesiaste; 

Wei koude he rede a lessoun or a storie, 

But alderbest he song an Offertorie; 710 

For wel he wiste whan that song was songe, 

He moste preche, and wel affile his tonge 

To wynne silver, as he ful wel koude; 

Therefore he song the murierly and loude. [the more merrily] 

Now have I toold you shortly, in a clause, 715 

The staat, tharray, the nombre, and eek the cause 
Why that assembled was this compaignye 
In Southwerk, at this gentil hostelrye, 
That highte the Tabard, faste by the Belle. 
But now is tyme to yow for to telle 720 

How that we baren us that ilke nyght, 
Whan we were in that hostelrie alyght; 
And after wol I telle of our viage 
And al the remenaunt of oure pilgrimage. 

But first, I pray yow of youre curteisye, 725 

That ye narette it nat my vileynye, [impute it not to my 
Thogh that I pleynly speke in this mateere coarseness] 
To telle yow hir wordes and hir cheere, [behaviour] 
Ne thogh I speke hir wordes proprely; [i.e., literally, exactly] 
For this ye knowen al-so wel as I, 730 

Whoso shal telle a tale after a man, 
He moote reherce, as ny as ever he kan, 
Everich a word, if it be in his charge, 
Al speke he never so rudeliche or large; [freely] 

Or ellis he moot telle his tale untrewe, 735 

Or feyne thyng, or fynde wordes newe. 
He may nat spare, althogh he were his brother; 
He moot as wel seye o word as another. 


Crist spak hymself ful brode in hooly writ, 

And wel ye woot no vileynye is it. 740 

Eek Plato seith, whoso that kan hym rede, 

'The wordes moote be cosyn to the dede.' 

Also I prey yow to foryeve it me 
Al have I nat set folk in hir degree 

Heere in this tale, as that they sholde stonde; 745 

My wit is short, ye may wel understonde. 

Greet chiere made oure hoost us everichon, 
And to the soper sette he us anon, 
And served us with vitaille at the beste: 
Strong was the wyn and wel to drynke us leste. [pleased] 750 

A semely man Our Hooste was with-alle 
For to han been a marchai in an halle. 
A large man he was, with eyen stepe, 
A fairer burgeys is ther noon in Chepe; 
Boold of his speche, and wys and well y-taught 755 

And of manhod hym lakkede right naught. 
Eek therto he was right a myrie man, 
And after soper pleyen he bigan, 
And spak of myrthe amonges othere thynges, 
Whan that we hadde maad our rekenynges; 760 

And seyde thus: 'Now, lordynges, trewely, 
Ye been to me right welcome, hertely; • 
For by my trouthe, if that I shal nat lye, 
I ne saugh this yeer so myrie a compaignye 
At ones in this herberwe as is now; [inn] 765 

Fayn wolde I doon yow myrthe, wiste I how. 
And of a myrthe I am right now bythoght, 
To doon yow ese, and it shal coste noght. 

'Ye goon to Canterbury — God yow speede, 
The blisful martir quite yow youre meede! [pay] 770 

And, wel I woot, as ye goon by the weye, 
Ye shapen yow to talen and to pleye; [prepare to tell stories] 
For trewely confort ne myrthe is noon 
To ride by the weye doumb as a stoon; 


And therfore wol I maken yow disport, 775 

As I seyde erste, and doon yow som confort. 

And if you liketh alle, by oon assent, 

Now for to stonden at my juggement, 

And for to werken as I shal yow seye, 

To-morwe, whan ye riden by the weye, 780 

Now, by my fader soule, that is deed, 

But ye be myrie, smyteth of myn heed! 

Hoold up youre hond, withouten moore speche.' 

Oure conseil was nat longe for to seche; 
Us thoghte it was noght worth to make it wys, 785 

And graunted hym withouten moore avys, [deliberation] 
And bad him seye his verdit, as hym leste. 

'Lordynges,' quod he, 'now herkneth for the beste; 
But taak it nought, I prey yow, in desdeyn; 
This is the poynt, to speken short and pleyn, 790 

That ech of yow, to shorte with your weye, 
In this viage shal telle tales tweye, — 
To Caunterburyward, I mean it so, 
And homward he shal tellen othere two, — 
Of aventures that whilom han bifalle. 795 

And which of yow that bereth hym beste of alle, 
That is to seyn, that telleth in this caas 
Tales of best sentence- and most solaas, [wisdom] 

Shal have a soper at oure aller cost, 

Heere in this place, sittynge by this post, 800 

Whan that we come agayn fro Caunterbury. 
And, for to make yow the moore mury, 
I wol myselven gladly with yow ryde 
Right at myn owene cost, and be youre gyde; 
And whoso wole my juggement withseye 805 

Shal paye al that we spenden by the weye. 
And if ye vouch e-sauf that it be so 
Tel me anon, withouten wordes mo, 
And I wol erly shape me therfore.' 

This thyng was graunted, and oure othes swore 810 


With fill glad herte, and prey den hym also 

That he would vouche-sauf for to do so, 

And that he wolde been oure governour, 

And of our tales juge and reportour. 

And sette a soper at a certeyn pris, 815 

And we wol reuled been at his devys 

In heigh and lough; and thus, by oon assent, 

We been acorded to his juggement. 

And therupon the wyn was fet anon; 

We dronken, and to reste wente echon, 820 

Withouten any lenger taryynge. 

Amorwe, whan that day gan for to sprynge, 

Up roos oure Hoost and was oure aller cok, [cock for all] 

And gadrede us togidre alle in a flok, 

And forth we riden, a little moore than paas, [a foot-pace] 825 

Unto the warteryng of Seint Thomas; 

And there oure Hoost bigan his hors areste 

And seyde, 'Lordynges, herkneth, if yow leste: 

Ye woot youre forward and I it yow recorde. [know your 

If even-song and morwe-song accorde, promise] 830 

Lat se now who shal telle the firste tale. 

As ever mote I drynke wyn or ale, 

Whoso be rebel to my juggement 

Shal paye for all that by the wey is spent! 

Nor draweth out, er that we ferrer twynne. [depart] 835 

He which that hath the shorteste shal bigynne. 

'Sire Knyght,' quod he, 'my mayster and my lord, 

Now draweth cut, for that is myn accord. 

Cometh neer,' quod he, 'my lady Prioresse, 

And ye sire Clerk, lat be your shamefastnesse, 840 

Ne studieth noght; ley hond to, every man.' 

Anon to drawen every wight bigan, 
And, shortly for to tellen as it was, 
Were it by aventure, or sort, or cas, [chance, destiny, or luck] 


The sothe is this, the cut fil to the knyght, 845 

Of which ful blithe and glad was every wyght: 

And telle he moste his tale, as was resoun, [right] 

By foreward and by composicioun, [agreement] 

As he han herd; what nedeth wordes mo? 

And whan this goode man saugh that it was so, 850 

As he that wys was and obedient 

To kepe his foreward by his free assent, 

He seyde, 'Syn I shal bigynne the game, 

What, welcome be the cut, a Goddes name! 

Now lat us ryde, and herkneth what I seye.' 855 

And with that word we ryden forth oure weye; 

And he bigan with right a myrie cheere 

His tale anon, and seyde in this manere. 


After the Prioress had told the sad tale of Hugh of Lincoln's 
martyrdom, the host turned to Chaucer. 

Whan seyd was al this miracle, every man 

As sobre was that wonder was to se, 

Til that oure Hooste japen tho bigan [jest] 

And thanne at erst he looked upon me, 

And seyde thus: 'What man artow?' quod he; 5 

'Thou lookest as thou woldest fynde an hare; 

For ever upon the ground I se thee stare. 

Approche neer, and looke up murily.' 

'Now war yow, sires, and lat this man have place; 

He in the waast is shape as wel as I; 10 

This were a popet in an arm tenbrace [puppet] 

For any womman, smal and fair of face. 

He semeth elvyssh by his contenaunce, [abstracted: 

For unto no wight dooth he daliaunce.' appearance] 


'Sey now somwhat, syn oother folk han sayd; 15 

Telle us a tale of myrthe, and that anon.' 

'Hooste,' quod I, 'ne beth nat yvele apayd, [disappointed] 

For oother tale certes kan I noon, 

But of a rym I lerned longe agoon.' 

'Ye, that is good, ' quod he, 'now shul we heere 20 

Som deyntee thyng, me thynketh by his cheere ! ' [looks] 


. . . Thise riotoures thre, of whiche I telle, (661) 
Longe erst er prime rong of any belle, 
Were set hem in a taverne for to drynke; 
And as they sat they herde a belle clynke 
Biforn a cors, was carried to his grave. 5 

That oon of hem gan callen to his knave: [boy] 

'Go bet,' quod he, 'and axe redily [quickly] 

What cors is this that passeth heer forby, 
And looke that thou reporte his name weel.' 

' Sire,' quod this boy, 'it nedeth never a deel, 10 

It was me toold er ye cam heere two houres; 
He was, pardee, an old felawe of youres, 
And sodeynly he was y-slayn to-nyght, 
For-dronke, as he sat on his bench upright; 
Ther cam a privee theef, men clepeth Deeth, 15 

That in this contree al the peple sleeth, 
And with his spere he smoot his herte atwo, 
And wente his wey withouten wordes mo. 
He hath a thousand slayn this pestilence, 
And maister, er ye come in his presence, 20 

Me thynketh that it were necessarie 
For to be war of swich an adversarie; 
Beth redy for to meete hym evermoore; 
Thus taughte me my dame; I sey na-moore.' 


'By Seinte Marie!' seyde this taverner, 25 

'The child seith sooth, for he hath slayn this yeer 
Henne over a mile, withinne a greet village, [hence] 
Bothe man and womman, child, and hyne, and page; [hind] 
I trowe his habitaci'oun be there; 

To been avysed greet wysdom it were, [jorwarned] 30 

Er that he dide a man a dishonour.' 

'Ye, Goddes armes!" quod this riotour, 
'Is it swich peril with hym for to meete? 
I shal hym seke by weye and eek by strete; 
I make avow to Goddes digne bones! 35 

Herkneth, felawes, we thre been al ones, 
Lat ech of us holde up his hand til oother, 
And ech of us bicomen otheres brother, 
And we wol sleen this false traytour, Deeth; 
He shal be slayn, he that so manye sleeth, 40 

By Goddes dignitee, er it be nyght!' 

Togidres han thise thre hir trouthes plight [troth] 

To lyve and dyen ech of hem for oother, 
As though he were his owene y-bore brother; 
And up they stirte, al dronken, in this rage; [started] 
And forth they goon towardes that village 
Of which the taverner hadde spoke biforn; 
And many a grisly ooth thanne han they sworn; 
And Cristes blessed body they to-rente, [tear in pieces] 
Deeth shal be deed, if that they may hym hente. [seize] 50 

Whan they han goon nat fully half a mile, 
Right as they wolde han troden over a stile, 
An oold man and a poure with hem mette; 
This olde man ful mekely hem grette 
And seyed thus: 'Now, lordes, God yow see!' 55 

The proudeste of thise riotoures three 
Answerde agayn, 'What, carl with sory grace, 
Why artow al for-wrapped, save thy face ? [art thou] 

Why lyvestow so longe in so greet age?' 

This olde man gan looke in his visage, 60 


And seyde thus: 'For I ne kan nat fynde 

A man, though that I walked into Ynde, 

Neither in citee, ne in no village, 

That wolde chaunge his youth e for myn age; 

And therfore moot I han myn age stille, 65 

As longe tyme as it is Goddes wille. 

Ne Deeth, alias! ne wol nat han my lyf; 

Thus walke I, lyk a resteless kaityf, 

And on the ground, which is my moodres gate, 

I knokke with my staf, erly and late, 80 

And seye, "Leeve mooder, leet me in! [dear] 

Lo, how I vanysshe, flessh and blood and skyn; 

Alias! whan shul my bones been at reste? 

Mooder, with yow wolde I chaunge my cheste 

That in my chambre longe tyme hath be, 85 

Ye, for an heyre-clowt to wrappe me!" [hair shirt] 

But yet to me she wol nat do that grace, 

For which ful pale and welked is my face. [withered] 

'But, sires, to yow it is no curteisye 
To speken to an old man vileynye, 90 

But he trespasse in word, or elles in dede. 
In Hooly Writ ye may your self wel rede, 
Agayns an oold man, hoor upon his heed, 
Ye sholde arise; wherfore I yeve yow reed, 
Ne dooth unto an oold man noon harm now, * 95 

Namoore than ye wolde men did to yow 
In age, if that ye so longe abyde. 
And God be with yow, where ye go or ryde; 
I moote go thider as I have to go.' 

'Nay, olde cherl, by God, thou shalt nat so!' 100 

Seyde this oother hasardour anon; [gamester] 

'Thou partest nat so lightly, by Seint John! 
Thou spak right now of thilke traytour, Deeth, 
That in this contree alle oure freendes sleeth; 
Have heer my trouthe, as thou art his espye, 105 

Telle where he is, or thou shalt it abye, [pay for] 


By God and by the hooly sacrement! 
For soothly, thou art oon of his assent 
To sleen us yonge folk, thou false theef!' 

'Now, sires,' quod he, 'if that ye so be leef no 

To fynde Deeth, turne up this croked wey, 
For in that grove I lafte hym, by my fey, 
Under a tree, and there he wole abyde; 
Noght for youre boost he wole him no thyng hyde. 
Seyethatook? Right there ye shal hym fynde. 115 

God save yow that boghte agayn mankynde, [redeemed] 
And yow amende!' thus seyde this olde man; 
And everich of thise riotoures ran 
Til he cam to that tree, and ther they founde, 
Of floryns fyne, of gold y-coyned rounde, 120 

Wei ny a seven busshels, as hem thoughte. 
No lenger thanne after Deeth they soughte, 
But ech of hem so glad was of that sighte, 
For that the floryns been so faire and brighte, 
That doun they set hem by this precious hoord. 125 

The worste of hem he spak the firste word. 

'Bretheren,' quod he, 'taak kepe what I seye; 
My wit is greet, though that I bourde and pleye. [jest] 
This tresor hath Fortune unto us yeven 
In myrthe and jolitee oure lyf to lyven, 130 

And lightly as it comth so wol we spende. 
Ey, Goddes precious dignitee! who wende [weened] 

To-day, that we sholde hav so faire a grace? 
But myghte this gold be caried fro this place 
Hoom to myn hous, or elles unto youres, 135 

(For wel ye woot that al this gold is oures,) 
Thanne were we in heigh felicitee. 
But trewely, by day it may nat bee; 
Men wolde seyn that we were theves stronge, 
And for oure owene tresor doon us honge. 140 

This tresor moste y-caried be by nyghte 
As wisely and as slyly as it myghte. 


Wherfore, I rede that cut among us all [lot] 

Be drawe, and let se wher the cut wol falle; 

And he that hath the cut with herte blithe 145 

Shal renne to the towne, and that ful swythe, [quickly] 

And brynge us breed and wyn ful prively, 

And two of us shul kepen subtilly 

This tresor wel; and if he wol nat tarie, 

Whan it is nyght we wol this tresor carie, 150 

By oon assent, where as us thynketh best.' 

That oon of hem the cut broghte in his fest [fist] 

And bad hem drawe and looke where it wol falle; 

And it fil on the yongeste of hem alle, 

And forth toward the toun he wente anon; 155 

And al so soone as that he was gon, 

That oon of hem spak thus unto that oother: 

'Thow knowest wel thou art my sworne brother; 

Thy profit wol I telle thee anon; 

Thou woost wel that oure felawe is agon, 160 

And heere is gold, and that ful greet plentee, 

That shal departed been among us thre; 

But natheless, if I kan shape it so 

That it departed were among us two, 

Hadde I nat doon a freendes torn to thee?' 165 

That oother answerde, 'I noot how that may be; 
He woot how that the gold is with us tweye; 
What shal we doon, what shal we to hym seye?' 

'Shal it be conseil?' seyde the firtse shrewe, [rascal] 
'And I shal tellen thee in wordes fewe 170 

What we shal doon, and bryngen it wel aboute.' 

'I graunte,' quod that oother, 'out of doute, 
That by my trouthe I shal thee nat biwreye.' 

'Now,' quod the firste, 'thou woost wel we be tweye, 
And two of us shul strenger be than oon. 175 

Looke whan that he is set, and right anoon 
Arys, as though thou woldest with hym pleye, 
And I shal ryve hym thurgh the sydes tweye, 


Whil that thou strogelst with hym as in game, 

And with thy daggere looke thou do the same; 180 

And thanne shal al this gold departed be, 

My deere freend, bitwixen me and thee. 

Thanne may we bothe oure lustes all fulfille, 

And pleye at dees right at oure owene wille.' [dice] 

And thus acorded been thise shrewes tweye, 185 

To sleen the thridde, as ye han herd me seye. 

This yongeste, which that wente unto the toun 
Ful oft in herte he rolleth up and doun 
The beautee of thise floryns newe and brighte; 
'O Lord,' quod he, 'if so were that I myghte 190 

Have al this tresor to myself allone, 
Ther is no man that lyveth under the trone [throne] 
Of God, that sholde lyve so murye as I!' 
And atte laste the feend, oure enemy, 

Putte in his thought that he sholde poyson beye, [buy] 195 
With which he myghte sleen his felawes tweye; 
For-why the feend foond hym in swich lyvynge, 
That he hadde leve hym to sorwe brynge, 
For this was outrely his fulle entente [utterly] 

To sleen hem bothe and never to repente. 200 

And forth he gooth, no lenger wolde he tarie, 
Into the toun, unto a pothecarie, 
And preyde hym that he hym wolde selle 
Som poysoun, that he myghte his rattes quelle; [kill] 

And eek ther was a polcat in his hawe, [hedge] 205 

That, as he seyde, his capouns hadde y-slawe, 
And fayn he wolde wreke hym, if he myghte [avenge himself] 
On vermyn, that destroyed hym by nyghte. [harmed] 

The pothecarie answerde, 'And thou shalt have 
A thyng that, al so God my soule save, 210 

In al this world ther nis no creature, 
That eten or dronken hath of this confiture, 
Noght but the montance of a corn of whete, [amount] 
That he ne shal his lif anon forlete; [give up] 


Ye, sterve he shal, and that in lasse while [die] 215 

Than thou wolt goon a-paas nat but a mile; 
This poysoun is so strong and violent.' 

This cursed man hath in his hond y-hent 
This poysoun in a box, and sith he ran 
Into the nexte strete unto a man, 220 

And borwed hym large botelles thre, 
And in the two his poyson poured he; 
The thridde he kepte clene for his owene drynke; 
For al the nyght he shoope hym for to swynke [planned] 
In cariynge of the gold out of that place. 225 

And whan this riotour with sory grace 
Hadde filled with wyn his grete botels thre, 
To his felawes agayn repaireth he. 

What nedeth it to sermone of it moore? 
For right as they hadde cast his deeth bifoore, 230 

Right so they han hym slayn, and that anon, 
And whan that this was doon thus spak that oon: 
'Now lat us sitte and drynke, and make us merie, 
And afterward we wol his body berie;' 
And with that word it happed hym, par cas, 235 

To take the botel ther the poysoun was, . 
And drank and yaf his felawe drynke also, 
For which anon they storven bothe two. 

But certes, I suppose that Avycen 
Wroot never in no Canon, ne in no fen [chapter] 240 

Mo wonder signes of empoisonyng 
Than hadde thise wrecches two, er hir endyng 
Thus ended been thise homycides two, 
And eek the false empoysonere also. 

O cursed synne of alle cursednesse! 245 

O traytorous homycide! O wikkednesse! 
O glotonye, luxiirie, and hasardrye! [lechery and gaming] 
Thou blasphemour of Crist with vileynye, 
And othes grete, of usage and of pride! 
Alias! mankynde, how may it bitide 250 


That to thy Creatour which that thee wroghte, 
And with his precious herte-blood thee boghte, 
Thou art so fals and so unkynde, alias! 

Now, goode men, God foryeve yow youre trespas, 
And ware yow fro the synne of avarice. 255 

Myn hooly pardoun may you alle warice. [heal] {906) 


(About 1399) 

To you, my purse, and to noon other wyght 
Compleyne I, for ye be my lady dere! 

I am so sory now that ye been light; 
For, certes, but ye make me hevy chere, 
Me were as leef be leyd upon my bere, 5 

Forwhiche unto your mercy thus I crye,— 

Beth hevy ageyn, or elles mot I dye! 

Now voucheth sauf this day, or hit be nyght, 
That I of you the blisful soun may here, 

Or see your colour lyk the sonne bright 10 

That of yelownesse hadde never pere. 
Ye be my lyf! ye be myn hertes stere! [rudder] 

Quene of comfort and of good companye! 

Beth hevy ageyn, or elles mot I dye. 

Now, purse, that be to me my lyves light 15 

And Saveour, as doun in this worlde here, 

Out of this toun help me thorogh your myght, 
Syn that ye wole not been my tresorere; 
For I am shave as nye as is a frere. [close] 

But yet I pray unto your curtesye, 20 

Beth hevy ageyn, or elles mot I dye! 


L'Envoy De Chaucer. 

O conquerour of Brutes Albioun, 
Which that by lyne and free eleccioun 
Ben verray Kyng, this song to you I sende, 
And ye that mouen al myn harm amende, 
Have mynde upon my supplicacioun ! 




(After 1386) 

Flee fro the press, and dwelle with sothefastnesse 

Suffice unto thy thyng though hit be smal; 

For hord hath hate and clymbyng tikelnesse, 

Prees hath envye, and wele blent overal; [makes blind] 

Savour no more than thee bihove shal; [taste] 5 

Werk wel thy-self, that other folk canst rede, [advise] 

And trouthe shal delivere, it is no drede. 

Tempest thee noght al croked to redresse [distress thyself] 
In trust of hir that turneth as a bal: 

Greet reste stant in litel besynesse; 10 

An eek be war to sporne ageyn an al; [awl] 

Stryve noght, as doth the crokke with the wal. [earthen pot] 
Daunte thy-self, that dauntest otheres dede. [subdue] 

And trouthe shal delivere, it is no drede. 

That thee is sent, receyve in buxumnese. [submission] 15 
The wrastling for this worlde axeth a fal. 


Her nis non hoom, her nis but wildernesse. 

Forth, pilgrim, forth! Forth, beste, out of thy stal, [beast] 

Know thy contree, look up, thank God of al; 

Hold the hye wey, and let thy gost thee lede, 20 

And trouthe shal delivere, it is no drede. 



Unto the Worthy and Noble Kinge Henry the Fourth. 

(About 1399) 

O noble worthy king, Henry the ferthe, 

In whom the gladde fortune is befalle 

The people to governe here upon erthe, 

God hath thee chose, in comfort of us alle; 

The worship of this land, which was doun falle, 5 

Now stant upright, through grace of thy goodnesse, 

Which every man is holde for to blesse. 

The highe God, of his justyce alone, 

The right which longeth to thy regalye 

Declared hath to stande in thy persone; 10 

And more than God may no man justifye. 

Thy title is knowe upon thyn auncestrye; 

The londes folk hath eek thy right affermed; 

So stant thy regne, of God and man confirmed. 

There is no man may say in other wise 15 

That God him-self ne hath the right declared; 


Whereof the land is boun to thy srvyse, 

Which for default of help hath longe cared. 

But now there is no mannes hearte spared 

To love and serve, and worke thy plesaunce; 20 

And all this is through Goddes purveyance. 

In alle thing which is of God begonne 

There followeth grace, if it be well governed; 

Thus tellen they which olde bokes conne, 

Whereof, my lord, I wot well thou art lerned. 25 

Ask of thy God; so shalt thou not be werned 

Of no request (the) which is reasonable; 

For God unto the good is favorable. 

Peace is the chief of all the worldes welthe, 

And to the heaven it leadeth eek the way; 

Peace is of soul and life the mannes helthe 80 

Of pestilence, and doth the war away. 

My liege lord, tak heed of what I say, 

If werre may be left, tak peace on honde, 

Which may not be withoute Goddes sonde. 

With peace stands every creature in reste, 85 

Withoute peace there may no life be glad; 

Above all other good, peace is the beste; 

Peace hath him-self, whan war is all bestad; [beset] 

The peace is safe, the war is ever adrad. 

Peace is of alle charitie the keye, 90 

Which hath the life and soule for to weigh. 

My liege lord, if that thee list to seche 

The sooth ensamples, what the war hath wrought, 

Thou shalt well hear, of wise mennes speche, 

That deadly werre tourneth in-to nought. 95 

For if these olde bokes be well sought, 


There might thou see what thing the war hath do 
Both of conquest and conqueror also. 

For vain honour, or for the worldes good, 

They that whilom the stronge werres made, ioo 

Where be they now? Bethink well, in thy mood, 

The day is goon, the night is dark and fade; 

Her cruelte, which made them thanne glade, 

They sorrow now, and yet have naught the more; 

The blood is shed, which no man may restore. 105 

The war is mother of the wronges alle; 

It sleeth the priest in holy church at masse, 

Forlyth the mayde, and doth her flour to falle. 

The war maketh the grete citee lasse, [less] 

And doth the law his reules overpasse. no 

There is nothing, whereof mischief may growe 

Which is not caused of the war, I trowe. 

The war bringeth in poverte at his heeles, 

Whereof the common people is sore grieved; 

The war hath set his cart on thilke wheeles 115 

Where that fortune may not be believed. 

For when men wene best to have acheved, 

Full oft it is all newe to beginne; 

The war hath nothing siker, though he winne. [sure] 

Therefore, my worthy prince, in Christes halve, [behalf] 120 

As for a part whose faith thou hast to guide, 

Lay to this olde sore a newe salve, 

And do the war away, what-so betide. 

Purchase peace, and set it by thy syde, 

And suffre not thy people be devoured; 125 

So shall thy name ever after stand honoured! 


My worthy liege lord, Henry by name, 

Which Engelond hast to govern and righte, 

Men oughten well thy pity to proclame, 360 

Which openly, in all the worldes sighte, 

Is shewed, with the help of God Almighte, 

To yeve us peace, which long hath be debated, 

Whereof thy prys shal never be abated. [glory] 

My lord, in whom hath ever yet be founde 365 

Pity, withoute spot of violence, 

Keep thilke peace alway, withinne bounde, 

Which God hath planted in thy conscience. 

So shall the cronique of thy pacience 

Among the saints be taken in- to memorie 370 

To the loenge of perdurable glorie. [praise] 

And to thine earthly prys, so as I can, 

Which every man is holde to commende, 

I Gower, which am all thy liege man, 

This lettre unto thine excellence I sende, 375 

As I, which ever unto my lyves ende 

Will praye for the stat of thy persone, 

In worship of thy sceptre and of thy throne. 

Not only to my king of peace I write, 

But to these othre princes Christen alle, 380 

That each of them his owne heart endite 

And cease the war, or more mescheef falle. 

Set eek the rightful pope upon his stalle; 

Keep charite, and draw pite to honde, 

Maintaine law; and so the peace shall stonde. 385 



(Poems formerly attributed to Chaucer) 

When that Phoebus his chair of gold so hy 
Had whirled up to the starry sky aloft, 

And in the Bole was entered certainly; [Bull] 

When showers sweet of rain descended soft, 
Causing the ground, fele times and oft, [many] 5 

Up for to give many an wholesome air, 

And every plain was eek y-clothed fair 

With newe green, and maketh smalle flowers 
To springen here and there in field and mead: 

So very good and wholesome be the showers 10 

That it reneweth, that was old and deede [dead] 

In winter-tyme; and out of every seed 

Springeth the herbe, so that every wight 

Of this season waxeth glad and light. 

And I, so glad of the season thus sweet, 15 

Was happened thus upon a certain night; 

As I lay in my bed, sleep full unmeet 
Was unto me; but, why that I ne might 
Rest, I ne wist; for there nas earthly wight, [was no!] 

As I suppose, had more hertes ease 20 

Than I, for I n'ad sickness nor disease. [had not] 

Wherefore I marvel greatly of my-selve, 

That I so long withouten sleepe lay; 
And up I rose, three hours after twelve, 

About the very springing of the day, 25 

And on I put my gear and mine array; 


And to a pleasant grove I gan pass, 
Long ere the brighte sun uprisen was, 

In which were oakes great, straight as a line, 
Under the which the grass so fresh of hue, 30 

Was newly sprung; and an eight foot or nine 
Every tree well from his fellow grew, 
With branches broad, laden with leaves new, 

That sprongen out against the sonne shene, 

Some very red, and some a glad light grene; 35 

Which as me thought was right a pleasant sight, 
And eke the briddes songis for to heare [birds] 

Would have rejoiced any earthly wight. 
And I, that could not yet, in no manere, 
Heare the nightingale of all the yeare, 40 

Full busily hearkened, with heart and eare, 

If I her voice perceive could any-where. 

And at the last, a path of little brede [breadth] 

I found, that greatly had not used be, 

For it forgrowen was with grass and weed, [overgrown] 45 
That well unneth' a wight there might it see: [scarcely] 
Thought I, this path somewither goeth, parde, 

And so I followed, till it me brought 

To right a pleasant herber, well y-wrought, [arbor, resting place] 

That benched was, and all with turves new [turf] 50 

Freshly turved, wherof the greene grass 
So small, so thick, so short, so fresh of hue, 

That most like to green wool, wot I it was. 

The hedge also, that yede as in compass [went] 

And closed in all the greene herbere, 55 

With sycamore was set and eglatere, [eglantine] 

Writhen in-fere so well and cunningly [twisted together] 


That every branch and leaf grew by measure, 
Plain as a board, of one height, by and by, [level, or 
smooth as a board and set close together] 
I saw never thing, I you ensure, 60 

So well y-don: for he that took the cure [care] 

It to make, I trow, did all his peyn 
To make it pass all those that men have seyn. [surpass] 

And shapen was this herber, roof and all, 

As is a pretty parlour, and also 65 

The hedge as thick as is a castle-wall, 

That, who that list without to stand or go, 

Though he would all day pryen to and fro, 
He should not see if there were any wight 
Within or no; but one within well might 70 

Perceive all those that yeden there-without [went] 

Into the field that was on every side 

Covered with corn and grass, that, without doubt, 
Though one would seeken all the worlde wide, 
So rich a field ne could not be espied 75 

Upon no coast, as of the quantitee, 

For of all good thing there was great plentee. 

And I, that all this pleasant sight then sy, [saw] 

Thought suddenly I felt so sweet an air 
Come of the eglantere, that certainly, 80 

There is no heart, I deem, in such despair, 

Ne with no thoughtes froward and contrair 
So overlaid, but it should soon have bote, [relief, succor] 
If it had ones felt this savour sote. [once, sweet] 

And as I stood and cast aside mine y [eye] 85 

I was ware of the fairest medle-tree [medlar tree] 

That ever yet in all my life I sy, 
As full of blossomes as it might be. 


Therein a goldfinch leaping prettily 
From bough to bough, and as him list, he eet 90 

Here and there, of buds and flowers sweet. 

And to the herber-sidi was joining 

This faire tree, of which I have you told; 
And at the last the bird began to sing, 

When he had eaten what he eate wold, 95 

So passing sweetly, that, by manifold, 
It was more pleasant than I could devise: 
And when his song was ended in this wise, 

The nightingale with so merry a note 

Answered him, that all the woode rong 100 

So suddenly, that, as it were a sote, [fool] 

I stood amazed; so was I with the song 
Through ravished, that, until late and long 

No wist I in what place I was, ne where; 

And ay, me thought, she sung e'en by mine ere. 105 

Wherefore about I waited busily [watched intently] 

On every side, if I her mighte see: 
And, at the last, I gan full well espy 

Where she sat in a fresh green laurel tree 

On the further side, even right by me, no 

That gave so passing a delicious smell 
According to the eglantere full well. 

Whereof I had so inly great plesyr 

That, as me thought, I surely ravished was 

Into Paradise, where my desyr 115 

Was for to be, and no further to pass 
As for that day, and on the sote grass ■ [sweet] 

I sat me down; for, as for mine intent, 

The birdes song was more convenient, [suited to my mood] 


And more pleasaunt to me, by many fold, 120 

Than meat or drink, or any other thing; 

Thereto the herber was so fresh and cold, 
The wholesome savours eke so comforting 
That, as I deemed, sith the beginning [since] 

Of the world, was never seen, or than, [then, at that time] 125 

So pleasant a ground of none earthly man. 

And as I sat, the briddes hearkening thus, 

Me thought that I heard voices suddenly, 
The most sweetest and most delicious 

That ever any wight, I trow truly, 130 

Heard in his life, for that the harmony 
And sweet accord was in so good musyk, 
That the voice to angels most was lyk. 

At last out of a grove even by, [near by] 

That was right goodly and pleasant to sight, 135 

I saw where there came singing lustily 
A world of ladies; but to tell aright 
Their great beaute, it lieth not in my might, 

Ne their array; nevertheless, I shall 

Tell you a part, though I speak not of all. 140 


For this ye knowe well, though I would lie, 
In women is all truth and steadfastness; 

For in good faith I never of them sye [siiv] 

But much worship, bounty, and gentleness, [goodness] 
Right comyng, fair, and full of mekeness, 

Good and glad, and lowly, I you ensure, 

Is this goodly angelic creature. 


And if it hap a man be in disease, [discomfort] 

She doth her business and her full fain 
With all her might, him to comfort and please 10 

If fro his disease she mighte him restrain; 

In word nor deed, I wis, she will not feign, 
But with all her might she doth her business 
To bringe him out of his heaviness. 

Lo, what gentleness these women have, 15 

If we could know it for our rudeness! 
How busy they be us to keep and save, 

Both in health, and also in sickness! 

And always right sorry for our distress, 
In every manner; thus they shewe ruth, 20 

That in them is all goodnesse and truth. 

And since in them are gentleness and trouth, 

Worship, bounty, and kindness evermore, 
Let ne'er this gentylnesse through your slouth 

In her kind truth be aught forlore, [at all lost or 

diminished] 25 

That in woman is, and hath been full yore; 
For in reverence of the heaven's Queen, 
We ought to worship all women that been. 

For of all creatures that e'er were born, 

This wot ye well, a woman was the beste: 30 

By her recovered was the bliss that we had lorne, [lost] 
And through the woman shall we come to reste, 
And be y-saved, if that our selfe lest; [pleases] 

Wherefore, me thinketh, if that we had grace, 

W T e oughten honour women in every place. 35 

Therefore I read that, to our lives ende, 

Fro this time forth, the while that we have space, 
That we have trespassed, pursue to amend, 


Praying our Lady, well of alle grace, 

To bringe us unto that blissful place, 40 

Where she and all good women shall be infere [together] 
In heaven above, among the angels clear. 


Your eyen two wol slee me sodenly, 

I may the beaute of hem not sustene, 

So woundeth hit through-out my herte kene. 

And but your word wol helen hastily 

My hertes wounde, whyl that hit is grene, 5 

Your eyen two wol slee me sodenly, 
I may the beaute of hem not sustene. 

Upon my trouthe I sey yow feithfully, 
That ye ben of my lyf and deeth the quene; 
For with my deeth the trouthe shal be sene. 10 

Your eyen two wol slee me sodenly, 
I may the beaute of hem not sustene, 
So woundeth hit through-out my herte kene. 

Bit Stomas ffilamraw? 

(About 1400) 


(About 1405) 

The god of love, a! benedicite! 

How mighty and how great a lord is he! 


For he can make of lowe heartes hye, 
And of hye low, and like for to dye, 
And harde heartes he can maken free. 5 

And he can make, within a little stounde [time] 

Of seke folk full whole, fresh and sounde, [sick] 

And of the whole, he can make seke; 

And he can binden and unbinden eke 
What he will have bounden or unbounde. 10 

To tell his might my wit may not suffyse; 
For he may do all that he will devyse 

For he can make of wise folk full nice, 

And eke in lyther folk destroyen vice; [evil] 

And proude heartes he can make agryse. [afraid] 15 

Shortly, all that e're he wills he may; 

Ageines him there dare no wight say nay. [against] 

For he can glad and grieve whom him liketh; 

And whom he will, he laugheth or he syketh; [makes 

laugh or sigh] 
And most his might he showeth ever in May. 20 

For every trewe gentle hearte free 
That with him is, or thinketh for to be, 

Ageines May now shall have some stirring, 

Either to joy, or elles to mourning, 
In no sesoun so great, as thinketh me. 25 

For when they mowe hear the briddes sing, [may] 

And see the flowers and the leaves spring, 

That bringeth into heartes remembraunce 

A kind of ease, mingled with grevaunce, 
And lusty thoughtes fulle of longing. 30 


3Mjn Hg&gate 

(About 1370^-1451) 

(From the Prologue to The Story of Thebes. About 1420) 

. . . Him that was, if I shall not feign, 

Flower of Poets, throughout of all Britain, 

Which soothly had moost of excellence 

In Rhetoryke and in eloquence. 

Read his making, who list the truthe finde, [works, poetry] 5 

Which never shall appallen in my minde, [grow pale] 

But always fresh been in my memorie; 

To whom be yeve praise, honour, and glorie. [given] 

Of well saying firste in our language; 

Chief Registrer in this our pilgrimage, 10 

All that he told, forgetting naught at all, 

Not feigned tales, nor thing historical, 

With many proverbs, diverse and uncouth, [unfamiliar] 

By the rehearsing of his sugared mouth. 

Of eache thinge keeping in substance 15 

The sentence whole withoute variance, 

Voiding the chaff, soothly for to sain, [say] 

Illumining the true picked grain, 

By crafty writing of his sawes sweet. [sayings] 


(From A Goodly Balade of Chaucer) 

Daisy of light, very ground of comforte, [are called, as 
The Sonnes daughter ye hight, as I rede; / understand] 


For when he westreth, farewell your disporte! [sets in the 
By your nature anon, right for pure drede west] 

Of the rude night that with his boistrous wede [garment] 5 

Of darkness shadoweth our emyspere, [hemisphere] 

Then closen ye, my lives lady dere! 

Dawning the Day to his kynde resorte, [usual place] 
Phoebus, your father, with his streames rede 

Adorneth the morrowe, consuming the sorte 10 

Of misty cloudes that would overlede 
True humble heartes with her mistihede, [mistiness] 

Nere comfort a-dayes, when eyen clere [by daytime] 

Disclose and spread my lives lady dere. 

Je voudray, but the greate God disposeth [/ would] 15 
And maketh casual, by His providence, [uncertain] 

Such thing as mannes frail wit purposeth, 
All for the best, if that our conscience 
Not grudge it, but in humble pacience 

It receive: for God saith without fable, 20 

A faithful heart is ever acceptable 


(From Testamentum Johannis Lydgate) 

Midst of a cloister, painted on a wall, 

I saw a crucifix with wounds not small, 

With this word VIDE, written there beside, — 

" Behold my meekness, Child, and learn thy pride." 

The which word when I came to understand, 

In my last age taking the sentence, [the full meaning] 
Thinking thereon, my pen I took in hand, 


And straightway wrote with humble reverence, 
On this word vide with much diligence, 
In memory of Christes passioun 
This little song, this compilatioun. 

"Turn home again, thy sin do thou forsake, 

Behold and see if aught be left behind; 
To mercy I am ready thee to take, 

Give me thy heart and be no more unkind; 15 

Thy love and mine, together do them bind, 

And let them never part in any wise; 

When thou wast lost, thy soul again to find, 

My blood I gave for thee in sacrifice. 

Tarry no longer towards thine heritage: 20 

Haste on thy way and be of right good cheer; 

Go each day onward on thy pilgrimage, 

Think how short time thou shalt abide here! 

Thy place is built above the starres clear, 

No earthly palace wrought in stately wise. 25 

Come on, my friend, my brother most entere, [entire, 

For thee I shed my blood in sacrifice." complete] 

Sfjumas JJfyatrtmv, or ($ttUm 

(About 1370-about 1450) . 


After that Harvest gathered had his sheaves, 
And that the brown sesoun of Michaelmesse 


Was come, and gan the trees rob of their leaves 
That green had been and in lusty freshnesse, 
And them into colour of yellownesse 5 

Had died, and down were throwen under foot, 
That change sank into mine heartes root. 

For freshly brought it to my remembrance, 

That stableness in this world there is none; 
There is no thing but change and variance; 10 

How rich a man may be or well begun, 

Endure it shall not, he shall it foregone. 

Death under foote shall him thrust a-down: 

For that is every wight's conclusioun. 

Which for to waive is in no marines might, 15 

How rich he be, strong, lusty, fresh, and gay. 

And at November's end, upon a night, 
Sighing most sore, as in my bed I lay, 
For this and other thoughts, which many a day 
Before I had, sleep came none in mine eye, 20 

So vexed me the thoughtful malady. 

The grief about my heart so sorely swal [swelled] 
And bolned ever to and fro so sore, [increased, swelled] 

That nedes out I must then with it all: 

I thought I could not keep it close no more, 25 

Nor let it in me, being old and hoar: 

And for to prove I came of a woman, 

I burst out on the morrow, and thus began. 

Here endeth my prologue, and followeth my Complaint, 

Almighty God, as liketh His goodness, 
Visiteth folk all-day as men may see, 


With loss of goods and bodily sickness, 
And among other He forgat not me; 
Witness thereof the mad innrmitie 
Which that I had, as many a man well knew, 
And which out of myself me cast and threw. 

As said is in the Psalter, might I say, 

All they that saw me fled away from me; 
Forgot I was, all out of mind away, 10 

Like as the dead, from heartes charitie; 

To a lost vessel likened might I be; 

For many a wight aboute me dwelling, 

Heard I me blame and put in dispraising. 

Some time I thought as lite as any man, [little] 15 

For to have fallen in that wildernesse, 

But God, when that Him list, may, will, and can, 
Our health withdraw and send a wight sicknesse, 
Though man be well this day, no sykernesse [security] 
To him is promised that it shall endure; 20 

God now can hurt and now can heal and cure. 

Through God's just doom and through His judgement, 
And for my beste now I take and deem, 

Gave that good Lord to me my punishment; 

In wealth I took of Him no heed or yeme, [care] 25 
Him for to please and Him honour and queme, [appease] 
And me He gave a bone on which to gnaw, 
Me to correct and of Him to have awe. 

He gave me wit, and wit He took away 

When that He saw that I it sore misspent, 30 


And gave again, when it was His to pay 
And granted me my guiltes to repent, 
And then henceforth to set all mine intent 
Unto His Deity to do pleasaunce, 
And to amend my sinful governaunce. 35 

Laud and honour and thanks unto Thee be, 
Lord God that salve art to all my heaviness! 

Thanks for my wealth and mine adversitie, 
Thanks for mine age and for my sickeness, 
And thanks be to Thine infinite goodness 40 

For all Thy gifts and benefices all, 
And to Thy mercy and Thy grace I call. 


(From The Regimen of Princes. About 14 12) 

But welaway! so is my hearte woe . 

That the honour of English tongue is deed, [dead] 
Of whom I used to have counsel and rede, [instruction) 

O master dear, and father reverent! 

My master Chaucer, flower of eloquence, 5 

Mirror of fructuous entendement, [understanding] 

O, universal father in science! 

Alas! that thou thine excellent prudence 

On thy bed mortal mightest not bequeathe! 

What ailed death? alas! why would he slay thee? 10 

O death! thou didest not harm singular [a single injury] 
In slaying him, but all this land it smarteth; 

But ne'ertheless, thou hast not any power 
His name to slay; his high virtue upstarteth 
Unslain by thee, which aye us lively hearteth. [hearteneih] 15 


With bookes of his ornate inditing, 
That are to all this land illumining. 

Simple my spirit, scarce my letterure [learning] 

Unto your excellency for to write 
Mine inward love, and yet, in aventure 20 

I put myself, although I can but lyte. [know but little] 

My deare master — (God his soul requite!) 

And father, Chaucer, fain would have me taught; 

But I was dull, and little learned or naught. 

Alas! my worthy master honourable, 25 

This landes very treasure and richesse, 

Death, by thy death, hath harm irreparable 

Done unto us; his vengeable duresse [revengeful 
Despoiled hath this land of the sweetnesse compulsion] 
Of rhetoric; for unto Tullius 30 

Was never man so like amongest us. 

Who was there nearer in philosophic 
To Aristotle, in our tongue, but thou? 

The foot-steps of Virgil in poesie 

Thou followedst sure, this men know well enow, [enough] 35 
That cumber-world, that thee, my master slow, [useless 
I would were slain! death went too hastily creature] [slew] 
To run on thee, and rive thy life of thee. 

Death hath but small consideracioun 

Unto the virtuous, I have espied, 40 

No more, as showeth the probacioun, [proof, as experience 

Than to a vicious master-scoundrel tried; [proved] shows] 

Among a crowd, is every man maistried; [mastered] 

By him, as well the rich man as the poor; 

Learned or unlearned, alike they stand — no more. 45 


He might have held his vengeance yet awhile, 

Till that some man might equal to thee be. 
Nay, let that be! he knew well that this isle 

Might never bring forth man like unto thee, 

And his office needes do must he; 50 

God bade him so, I trust as for the best; 

O master, master, God thy soule rest! 

The firste finder of our fair language, 

Hath writ of death as many another one, 
So highly well that it is my dotage [foolishness] 55 

To speak, I cannot reach what they have done. 

Alas! my father from the world is gone — 

My worthy master Chaucer, him I mean — 

Be thou advocate for him, heaven's queen! 

As thou well knowest, O blessed virgine, 60 

With loving heart, and high devocioun 
In thine honour he wrought full many a line; 

Grant now thy help and thy promocioun! 

To God thy Son, make thou a mocioun, [motion] 

How he thy servant was, maiden Marie, 65 

And let his love flower and fructifie. 

Although his life be quenched, the resemblaunce 

Of him hath in me so fresh liveliness 
That, to put other men in remembraunce 

Of his person, I have here his likeness 70 

Essayed, to this end in truthfulness, 

That they who have of him least thought and mind, 

By this portrayal may again him find. 



(1407 ?) 

Somer, that ripenest marines sustenance 

With wholesome heate of the sun's warmnesse, 

All kinds of men are bounden thee to blesse! 

Aye thanked be thy friendly governance, 

And thy fresh look of mirth and of gladnesse! 5 

Somer, that ripenest mannes sustenance. 

To heavy folk of thee the remembrance 
Is salve and ointment to their sickenesse, 
Wherefore, we thus shall sing in Christemesse, 
Somer, that ripenest mannes sustenance. 10 

(About 1475-about 1523) 

(From The Pastime of Pleasure. 1506 ?) 

O earth! on earth it is a wondrous case 

That thou art blinde and will not thee know; 

Though upon earth thou hast thy dwelling place 
Yet earth at last must needs thee overthrow. 
Thou thinkest thee to be no earth, I trow; 

For if thou didst, thou wouldest then apply 

To forsake pleasure and to learn to die. 


O earth, of earth why art thcu so proud? 

Now what thou art, call to remembrance; 
Open thine ears unto my song aloud. 10 

Is not thy beauty, strength and puissance, 

Though becladde with cloth of pleasaunce, 
Very earth and also wormes fode, [}ood\ 

When earth to earth shall turne too the blode? 

And earth for earth why hast thou envy? 15 

And the earth upon earth to be more prosperous 

Than thou thyself, fretting thee inwardly? 
It is a sin right foul and vicious 
And unto God also full odious. 

Thou thinkest, I trow, there is no punishment 20 

Ordained for sin by equal judgement. 

Toward heaven to follow on the way 
Thou art full slow, and thinkest nothing 

That thy nature doth full sore decay 

And death right fast is to thee coming. 25 

God grant thee mercy, but no time enlongyng. [prolonging] 

When thou hast time, take time and space: 

When time is past, lost is the time of grace. 

And when earth to earth is nexte to revert 

And nature low in the last age, 30 

Of earthly treasure earth doth set his herte 

Insatiately upon covetyse to rage [covetousness] 

He thinketh not his lyfe shall asswage; 
His good is his God, with his great ryches; 
He thinketh not for to leave it doutles. 35 

The pomped carkes with food delicious, 

Earth often feeds with corrupt gluttony, 
And not at all with workes virtuous; 


The soul doth feed right well ententifly, 

But without measure, full inordinately, 40 

The body liveth, and will not remember 
How earth to earth must his strength surrender. 

O mortal folk, you may behold and see 

How I lie here, sometime a mighty knight; 
The end of joy and all prosperity 45 

Is death at last, thorough his course and might! 

After the day there cometh the derke night; 
For though the day be never so longe, 
At last the bells ring to even-songe. 


2Cut0 3fam£0 % 3Ftrat 



(About 1425) 
(from canto ii) 

Bewailing in my chamber thus alone, 

Despaired of all joy and remedye, 
For, tired of my thoughts, and woe-begone, 

Unto the window 'gan I walk in hye, [haste] 

To see the world a,nd folk that went forbye; [past] 

As, for the time (though I of mirthe's food 
Might have no more), to luik it did me good. 


Now was there made, fast by the Tower's wall, 

A garden fair, and in the corners set 
An arbour green, with wandes long and small, 10 

Railed about; and so with trees set 
Was all the place, and hawthorn hedges knet, [knitted close] 

That life was none walking there forbye, [life, living 

That might within scarce any wight espye. person] 

So thick the boughes met, the leaves green, 15 

Beshaded all the alleys that were there; 
And midst of every arbour might be seen 

The sharpe, greene, sweete, juniper, 
Growing so fair, with branches here and there; 

That, as it seemed to a life without, 20 

The boughes spread the arbour all about. 
And on the smalle greene twistis sat [twigs] 

The little sweete nightingale, and sung 
So loud and clear the hymnes consecrat 

Of Luve's use; now soft, now loud among, [promis- 25 
That all the garden and the walles rung cuously] 

Right of their song; and on the couplet next [right of, 

Of their sweet harmony: and lo the text! entirely with] 

"Worshippe, ye that lovers be, this May, 

For of your bliss the kalends are begun, 30 

And sing with us, away, Winter, away, 

Come, Summer, come, the sweet seasoun and sun. 
Awake, for shame! that have your heavens won, 

And amorously lift up your heades all, 

Thank Luve that list you to his mercy call." 35 

When they this song had sung a little thrawe, [while[ 
They stent awhile, and therewith unafraid, [stopped] 

As I beheld and cast mine eyen a-lawe, [below] 

From bough to bough they hopped and they played, 

And freshly in their birdes kind arrayed 40 


Their feathers new, and fret them in the sun, [spread] 
And thanked Luve, that had their mates won. 

This was the plaine ditty of their note, 

And therewithal unto myself I thought, 
"What life is this, that makes birdes dote? 45 

What may this be, how cometh it of ought? 
What needeth it to be so dearly bought? 

It is nothing, trow I, but feigned cheer, 

And that men list to counterfete cheer.'" 


Since through virtue increases dignity, 
And virtue, flower and root, is of noblay, [nobility] 

Of any weal or what estate thou be, 
His steps ensue and dread thou no affray; 
Exile all vice, and follow truth alway; 5 

Luve most thy God, who first thy luve began, 

And for each inch He will thee quit a span. 

Be not o'er proud in thy prosperity, 

For as it comes, so will it pass away; 
Thy time to count is short, thou may'st well see, 10 

For of green grass soon cometh withered hay. 

Labour in truth while there is light of day. 
Trust most in God, for He best guide thee can, 
And for an inch He will thee quit a span. 

Since word is thrall, and only thought is free, 15 

Tame thou thy tongue, that power has and may, 

Shut thou thine eyes on worldly vanity; 
Refrain thy lust and hearken what I say; 
Seize lest thou slide, and creep forth on the way; 

Keep thy behest unto thy God and man, 20 

And for each inch He will thee quit a span 


(About 1425 ?-i5o6 ?) 


"O sop of sorrow sunken into care! 
O captive Cressid! Now and ever-mair 

Gane is thy joy and all thy mirth in eird; [on earth] 
Of all blitheness now art thou bleached bare; 
There is na salve may salve thee of thy sair! 5 

Fell is thy fortune, wicked is thy weird; 

Thy bliss is banished, and they bale in breird! [in leaf, or 
Under the earth God grant I graven were, [buried] sprouting] 

Hidden from Greece and Troy, my name unheard! 

"Where is thy chamber, pleasant to be seen 10 

With beauteous bed, and benches 'broidered bene, [beautifully 

Spices and wines for thy collatioun; embroidered] 

The cuppes all of gold and silver shene, 
The sweet-meats served up in platters clean, 

With sauce of saffron of a good seasoun, [seasoning] 15 

Thy garments gay, with mony a gudely gown, 
Thy pleasant lawn, pinned with a golden prene ? [brooch] 

All is arrear thy great royal renown! 

"Where is thy garden, with its grasses gay 

And freshe floures, whilk the queen Floray 20 

Had painted pleasantly in every pane, [plot, bed] 

Where thou wast wont full merrily in May 
To walk, and tak the dew when it was day, 

And hear the merle and mavis mony ane; [black-bird and 

With ladies fair that carrolling are gane, thrush] 25 

And see the royal rout in their array 

In garments gay, garnished in every grain ? [colour, hue] 



"Thy great triumphant fame and high honour, 
When thou wast called of earthly wights the flour? 

All is decayed; thy fate is fallen so, 30 

Thy high estate is turned to darkness dour! 
This leper's lodge tak for thy beauteous bour, 

And for thy bed scant straw is now enow, 

Fine fare and chosen wine na more I know, 
But mouldy bread, perry, and cider sour; [a fermented 35 

Save cup and dipper, now is all ago. [gone] drink] 

"My clear voice and my courtly carrolling, 
Where I was wont with ladies for to sing, 

Is raw as rook, most hideous, hoir, and hace; [hoarse] 
My pleasant port all others precelling, [excelling] 40 

I more than all to all did pleasure bring; 

Now is deformed the fashion of my face; 

To luik on it na man now liking hes. [has] 

Sopped in sorrow, I say with sair sighing — 

Lodged among the leper-folk — "Alace!" [Alas ] 45 

"O ladies fair of Troy and Greece, attend 
My misery whilk nane may comprehend, 

My fortune fell, my infelicitie, 
My great mischief, whilk na man can amend, 
Be ware in time, approaches near the end, 

And in your mind ane mirrour mak of me. 

As I am now, peradventure that ye, 
For all your micht, may come to that same end, 

Or else be ware, if ony ware may be. 


"Naught is your fairness but ane fading flour, 
Naught is your famous laud and high honour, 

But wind inflate in other mennes ears; 
Your rosy red to rotting shall retour. [return] 

Example mak of me in your memour, 

Whilk of sic things such woeful witness bears, 




All wealth in earth away as wind it wears; 
Be ware therefore! approaches near the hour; 

Fortune is fickle, when she begins and steers." [once 

takes the helm; governs] 

Thus chiding with her dreary destiny, 

Weeping, she woke the night fra end to end, 65 

But all in vain: her dole, her careful cry 

Micht naught remeid, nor yet her mourning mend, [remedy] 
Ane leper-lady rose, and till her wend, [to her went] 

And said, "Why spurnest thou against the wall, 

To slay thyself, and mend na-thing at all ? 70 

"Since that thy weeping doubles but thy woe, 
I counsel thee mak virtue of ane need, 

To learn to clap thy clapper to and fro, 

And live after the law of leper-leid." [leper- folk] 

There was na boot, but forth with shame she geid 

[help] [went] 75 

Fra place to place, while cauld and hunger sair 

Compelled her to be ane rank beggair. 

At that same time, of Troy the garrisoun, — 

Whilk had for chieftain worthy Troilus, — 
Through jeopardy of war had stricken doun 80 

Knightes of Greece in number marvellous 

With great triumph and laud victorious 
Again to Troy richt royally they rade 
The way where Cressid with the lepers bade, [abode; 

Seeing them pass, the lepers with ane Steven, [one voice] 85 
All gave ane cry and shook their cups with speed; 

Said: "Worthy lords, for Goddes love of heaven, 
Unto us lepers give of your alms-deed!" 
Then to their cry great Troilus took heed; 

He pitiful, near to the place 'gan pass 90 

Where Cressid sat, not witting who she was. 


Then upon him she cast up baith her een, 
And with ane blink it came into his thought, 

That he some time before her face had seen; 

But she was in sic plight he knew her naught, 95 

Yet still her liuk into his mind it brought 

The sweet visage and amorous blinking [glance] 

Of fair Cressid, sometime his own darling. 

Na wonder was, in truth, in mind that he 

Tuik her figure sa soon, and lo! now, why; 100 

The image of ane thing perchance may be 

So deep imprinted in the fantasy, 

That it deludes the wittes outwardly, 
And so appears in form and like estate 
Within the mind as it was figurait. [figured, imagined] 105 

Ane spark of luve within his heart would spring, 

And kindled all his body in ane fire; 
And fever hot, and sweat and trembilling 

Him tuik, till he was ready to expire; 

To bear his shield his breast began to tire; no 

Within ane while he changed mony hue, 
And natheless not ane anither knew. 

For knightly pity and memorial 

Of fair Cressid, ane girdle 'gan he tak, 

Ane purse of gold, and mony gay jewall, 115 

And in the skirt of Cressid doun 'gan swak; [cast] 

Then raid away, and not ane word he spak, 

Pensive in heart, till he came to the toun, 

And for great care oft-times almost fell doun. 

The leper-folk to Cressid then 'gan draw, 120 

To see the equal distributioun 
Of all the alms; but when the gold they saw, 

Ilk ane to ither privily 'gan roun, [whisper] 


And said: "Yon lord has more affectioun, 
How e'er it be, unto yon lazarous [plague-stricken] 125 

Than to us all; we know by his almous." [alms] 

"What lord is yon?" quoth she, "can ye not tell, 

Has done to us sa great humanity?" 
"Yes," quoth a leper-man, "I know him well; 

Sir Troilus it is, gentill and free!" 130 

When Cressid understood that it was he, 
Stronger than steel struck swift a bitter stound [pain] 
Thorough her heart; doun fell she to the ground! 

Then she, with stifling sighs, with pain possessed, 

With mony careful cry and sad; — "Ochane! [och hone, 135 

A storm of sorrows now besiege my breast! alas] 

What shall I do, — a wretch wrapped up in pain?" 
Then swouned she oft ere she could refrain, 

And ever in her swouning cried she thus: 

"O false Cressid, and true Knight Troilus! 140 

"Thy luve, thy loyalty and gentleness, 

I counted small in my prosperitie; 
Sa elevait I was in wantonness, 

I climbed upon the fickle wheel sa hie; 

All faith and luve I promised to thee, 145 

Was in the same fickle and frivolous; 
O false Cressid, and true Knight Troilus! 

"Luvers, be ware, and tak guid heed about 
Whom that ye luve, for whom ye suffer pain; 

I let you wit, there is richt few thereout [know] 150 

Whom ye may trust, to have true luve again; 
Prove when ye will, your labour is in vain, 

Therefore I rede ye tak them as ye find; [advise] 

For they are set as weather-cock in wind. 


"Because I know their great unstableness, 155 

Brukkle as glass, unto myself I say, [brittle] 

I see in each as great unfaithfulness, 

Unconstant ever, and untrue of fay. [jaith] 

Though some be true, I wot richt few are they, 

Who fmdeth truth, let him his lady praise, 160 

Nane but my self, I do accuse," she says. 

When this was said, with paper she sat doun 
And in this manner made her Testament: — 

"Here I bequeath my corpse and carioun 
With wormes and with toades to be rent; 165 

My cup and clapper, and mine ornament, 

And all my gold the leper-folk shall have, 

When I am dead, to bury me in grave. 

"This royal ring, set with this ruby red, 

Whilk Troilus in dowry did me send, 170 

To him again I leave when I am dead, 

JTo make my careful deed unto him kend. 

T'hus I conclude shortly, and mak an end. 
My spirite I leave to Dian where she dwells, 
To' walk with her in woodes waste and wells. 175 

"O Diomed! both belt and brooch thou hast, 

Whilk Troilus as token did me bring 
Of his true luve! " And with that word she passed, [died] 

And soon ane leper-man tuik off the ring, 

Then buried her withouten tarrying. 180 

To Troilus forthwith the ring he bare, 
And of Cressid the death he 'gan declare. 

When he had heard her great infirmitie, 

Her legacy and lamentatioun, 
And how she ended in such poverte, . 185 

All dazed for woe, he sank doun in a swoun; 


For great sorrow his heart to burst was boun, [ready] 
Sighing full sadly, said: "I can no more; 
She was untrue, and woe is me therefore!" 

Some said he made a tomb of marble gray, 190 

And writ her name and superscriptioun, 
And laid it on her grave, where that she lay, 

In letters gold, containing this resoun: — 

"Lo! fair ladies, Cressid of Troyes toun, 
Counted sometime the flour of womanheid, 195 

Under this stane, late leper, lieth deid!" 

Now, worthy women, in this ballad short, 

Made for your worship and instructioun, 
Of charity I monish and exhort 

Mix not your luve with false deceptioun. 200 

Bear in your mind this short conclusioun 
Of fair Cressid, as I have said before; 
Since she is dead, I speak of her na more. 


Upon a time, as /Esop could report, 

A little Mouse came to a river side; 
She micht not wade, her shankes were sa short; 

She could not swim, she had na horse to ride; 

Of very force hehoved her to bide, 5 

And to and fra beside the river deep, 
Crying she ran, with mony a piteous peep. 

"Help ower, help ower!" this silly Mouse gan cry, 
"For Goddes luve, some body o'er this brim I" [flood] 
With that a Paddock in the water by, [toad] 10 

Put up her heid, and on the bank gan clym; 
Whilk by nature could duck, and gaily swim. 


With voice full rauk, she said in this maneir: [hoarse, 
"Gude morn, Sir Mouse, what is your errand here?" raucous] 

"See'st thou," quoth she, "of corn yon jolie flat [pretty T5 
Of ripened oats, of barley, pease, and wheat; plain] 

I am hungrie, and fain would be thereat, 
But I am stoppit by this water great; 
And on this side I get na thing to eat 

But hardest nuts, whilk with my teeth I bore. 20 

Were I beyond, my feast were far the more. 

I haf na boat, here is na marinere; 
And though there were, I haf no freight to pay." 

Quoth she: "Sister, let be your heavy cheer; 

Do my counsel, and I shall find the way 25 

Withouten horse, brig, boat, or yet gallay, [bridge] 

To bring you o'er safel'y — be not afeard — 

Nor even wet the tip of your long beard." 

"I haf great wonder," quoth the silly Mouse, 

"How thou can'st float without feather or fin! 30 

This river is sa deep and dangerous, 

Methinks that thou would drowned be therein. 
Tell me, therefore, what facultie or gin, [what power 

or what contrivance] 

Thou hast to bring thee o'er this water?" Than [then] 

Thus to declare, the Paddock soon began: 35 

"With my twa feet," quoth she, "webbed and braid, [broad] 

Instead of oars, I row the stream full still; 
And though the flood be perilous to wade, 

Baith to and fra I row at my ain will. 

I may not drown, — for why? — my open gill 40 

Devoidis aye the water I resaif, [empties] [receive] 

Therefore to droun, forsooth, na dreid I haif." [have] 


The Mouse looked hard upon her fronsit face, [rough] 
Her wrinkled cheekes, and her lippes wide; 

Her hanging browes, and her voice sa hace; [hoarse] 45 

Her sprawling legges, and her harsky hide. [harsh] 
She ran aback, and to the Paddock cried: 

"If I have ony skill in phisnomie, [physiognomy] 

Thou hast some part of falsehood and envie. 

"For wise men say the inclinatioun 50 

Of mannes thought proceedeth commonlie 
After the corporal complexioun 

To guid or ill, as nature will applie; 

A twisted face, a twisted phisnomie. [nature] 

The auld proverb is witness of this lorum: [lore] 55 

Distorlum vultum, sequitur distortio morum." 

"Na," quoth the Toad, "that proverb is not true; 

For fairest things are oftentimes found faikyn. [deceitful] 
The blue-berries, though they be sad of hue, 

Are gathered when the primrose is forsaken. 60 

The face may fail to be the heart's true takin, [token] 
Therefore I find this Scripture all in place: 
Thou should not judge a man after his face. 

"Though I unwholesome be to luik upon, 

I have na cause why I should blamed be; 65 

Were I as fair as jolie Absalom, 

I am na causer of that great beautie. 

This difference in form and qualitie 
Almighty God hath caused Dame Nature 
To print, and set in every creature. 70 

"Of some the face may be full nourishing; 

Of silken tongue and cheer richt amorous; 
With mind inconstant, false, and varying, 

With tricky ways, and full of sly deceit." 


"Leave preaching," quoth the Mouse, who longed to eat, 75 
"And by what craft, now mak me understand, 
You mean to bear me unto yonder land!" 

"Thou know'st," quoth she, "a body that has need, 
To help himself should mony methods cast; [contrive] 

Therefore go tak a double twisted threid, [thread] 80 

And bind thy leg to mine with knottes fast; 
I shall thee learn to swim, be not aghast." 

"Is that thy counsel?" quoth the silly Mous, 

To prove that play 't were over perilous! 

"Should I be bound and fast where I am free, 85 

In hope of help? Nay, then beshrew us baith, 
For I micht lose baith life and libertie! 

If it were so, who might amend my skaith? [hurt] 

But wilt thou swear to me the murther-aith, [oath] 

To bring me ower, renouncing fraud or ill, 90 

And safe from hurt?" "In faith," quoth she, "I will." 

Then up she gazed, and to the heavens gan cry: 
"O Jupiter! of Nature, god and king, 

I mak an aith truly to thee, that I 

This little Mouse shall o'er this water bring." 95 

This aith was made. The Mouse not perceiving 

The false device of this foul trickster Taid, [toad] 

Tuik threid, and bound her leg, as she her bade. 

Then foot for foot they leapt baith in the brim: 

But in their minds they were quite different: 100 

The Mouse thought of na thing but for to swim, 

The Paddock for to drown set her intent, [drown her] 
When they had gained mid-stream, as on they went, 

With all her force the Paddock pressed down, 

And thought the Mouse without mercie to drown. 105 


Perceiving this, the Mouse on her gan cry: 
"Traitor to God, and man-sworn unto me, 

Thou swore the murther-aith right now, that I 
Sans force or harm should ferried be and free!" 
And when she saw there was but do or dee, no 

With all her micht she forced her to swim 

And struggled on the Paddock's back to clim. [climb] 

The dread of death then made her strength increase; 
Forced her to save herself with micht and main. 

The Mouse upward, the Paddock down gan preis; [press] 115 
Now to, now fra, now duck, now up again, 
This silly Mouse thus plunged in great pain, 

So fought as lang as breath was in her breist, 

Till at the last she cryed for a priest. 

As thus she sighed, a Gled perched on a bough, [hawk] 120 
And to this wretched battle tuik guid heid, [heed] 

And with a whisk, ere either one knew how, 

He clutched his claw between them in the threid; 
Then to the land he bore them with guid speed, 

Glad of his prize, which shrieked for fear of skaith, 125 

Then loosed he them, and ruthless slew them baith. 


(From The Tale of the Upland Mouse and the Burgess Mouse) 

Blessed be simple life, withouten dreid; 

Blessed be sober feast in quietie; 
Who has enough, of no more has he need, 

Though it be little into quantitie. 

Great abundance, and blind prosperitie, 5 

Ofttimes mak an ill conclusion; 

The sweetest life, therefore, in this countrie, 
Is to live safe, with small possession. 


Uttliam Smthar 

(1460-1520 ?) 


Be merry, man! and tak not sair in mind [sore] 

The wavering of this wretched world of sorrow! 

To God be humble and to thy friend be kind, 

And with thy neighbours gladly lend and borrow: 

His chance to-nicht, it may be thine to-morrow; 5 

Be blithe in heart for ony adventure; 
For oft with wise men, 't has been said aforrow, [afore] 

Without gladness availis no treasure. 

Mak thee gude cheer of it that God thee sends, 

For warldes wrack but welfare nocht avails. 10 

No gude is thine, save only that thou spends; 

Remanent all thou brookis but with bales. 

Seek to solace when sadness thee assails; 
In dolour long thy life may not endure, 

Wherefore of comfort set up all thy sails; 15 

Without gladness availis no treasure. 

Follow on pity, flee trouble and debate, 

With famous folk aye hold thy company; 
Be charitable and humble in thine estate, 

For wardly honour lastes but a cry; [short time] 20 

For trouble in earth tak no melancholy; 
Be rich in patience, if thou in goods be poor; 

Who lives merry he lives michtily; 
Without gladness availis no treasure. 

Thou seest these wretches set with sorrow and care 25 

To gather goods in all their lives space; 


And, when their bags are full, their selves are bare, 
And of their riches but the keeping hes; [have] 

While others come to spend it, that have grace, 

Whilk of thy winnings no labour had nor cure; [care] 30 
Tak thou example, and spend with merriness; 

Without gladness availis no treasure. 

Though all the wealth that e'er had living wight 

Were only thine, no more thy part does fall 
But meat, drink, clothes, and of the rest a sight, 35 

Yet, to the Judge, thou shalt give 'compt of all. 

Ane reckoning richt comes of ane ragment small, [scroll] 
Be just and joyous, and do to nane injure, 

And truth shall mak thee strong, as ony wall; 
Without gladness availis no treasure. 40 



Sweet rose of virtue and of gentleness, 

Delightsome lily of every lustiness, 

Richest in bounty, and in beauty clear, 
And every virtue that is held most dear, 

Except only that ye are merciless. 

Into your garth this day I did pursue, 1 
There saw I flowers that freshe were of hue; 
Baith white and red most lusty to be seen, 
And wholesome herbs upon their stalkes green; 
Yet leaf or flower find could I nane of rue. 

I doubt that March with his cauld blastis keen, 
Has slain this gentle herb, for whilk I mean; [moan] 

This day I wandered (or pursued my way) within your garden. 


Whose piteous death does to my heart sic pain 
That I would mak to plant his root again, — 
So comforting his leaves unto me been. 


Of Februar the fifteenth nicht, 
Full lang before the dayes licht, 

I lay in-till a trance; 
And then I saw baith Heaven and Hell; 
Methocht, amang the fiendes fell, 5 

Mahoun gan cry ane dance 
Of sinners that were never shriven, 
Against the feast of Fastern's even, 

To mak their observance. 
He bad mak ready masquers' guise, 10 

To cut up capers in the skies, 

As varlets do in France. 

"Let see," quoth he, "now who begins," 
With that the foul Seven Deadly Sins 

Began to leap at anis. [at once] 15 

And first of all in dance was Pride, 
With hair thrown back, and bonnet on side, 

Like to mak vastie wanis; [empty dwellings] 

And round about him, as a wheel, 
Hangs all in rumples to the heel 20 

His cassock for the nanis; [for the nonce] 

Many a proud trompour with him tripped; [cheat] 
Through scalding fire aye as they skipped 

They girned with hideous granis. [groans] 

Then Ire came in with sturt and strife: [disturbance] 25 
His hand was aye upon his knife, 


He brandished like a bear: 
Boasters, braggers, and bargainers, 
After him passed in in pairs, 

All clad in garb of weir; [war] 30 

In jacks, and mail, and bonnets of steel, 
They were in armour to the heel, 

Full fro ward was their air: 
Some upon other with brands beft, [beat] 

Some jaggit others to the heft, 35 

With knives that sharp could shear. 

Next in the dance followed Envy, 
Filled full with feud and felony, 

Hid malice and despite; 
For privy hatred that traitor trembled; 40 

Him followed many a rogue dissembled 

With feigned wordes white: 
And flatterers unto men's faces; 
And backbiters in secret places 

To lie that had delight; 45 

And whisperers of false lesings, [lies] 

Alace! that courts of noble kings 

Of them can never be quyte. [quit] 

Next him in dance came Covetice, 

Root of all ill, and ground of vice, 50 

That never could be content: 
Catiffs, wretches, and usurers, 
Misers, hoarders, gatherers, 

All with that warlook went: 
Out of their throats they shot on other 55 

Hot, molten gold, me thocht, a futher [load] 

As fire-flaught maist fervent; [lightning] 

Aye, as they emptied them of shot, 
Fiends filled them new up to the throat, 

With gold of all kind prent. [of every impress] 60 


Nae minstrels played to them nae doubt, 
For gleemen there were holden out, 

By day and eke by nicht; 
Except a minstrel that slew a man, 
So to his heritage he wan, 65 

And entered by brief of richt. 

Then cried Mahoun for a Hielan' Padyane: [pageant] 
Syne ran a fiend to fetch Makfadyane, 

Far northwast in a nook: 
When he the coronach had done shout, 70 

Erse men so gathered him about, [Scotch; Gaels] 

In hell great room they took. 

Thae termagents, with tag and tatter, 

Full loud in Erse began to chatter, [Scotch] 

And roup like raven and rook. [croak] 75 

The Devil sae deaved was with their yell, 
That in the deepest pot of hell 

He smorit them with smoke! [smothered] 



I that in health was and gladness, 
Am troubled now with great sickness, 
And feeble with infirmity; 

Timor Mortis conturbat me. 

Our pleasaunce here is all vain glory, 
This false warld is but transitory, 
The flesh is bruckle, the Fiend is slee; [brittle] [sly] 
Timor Mortis conturbat me. 


The state of man does change and vary, 
Now sound, now sick, now blithe, now sary, [sorry] 10 

Now dancing merry, now like to dee; 
Timor Mortis conturbat me. 

No state on earth stands fast, I find; 
As osiers light wave in the wind, 

So waveth this warld's vanity; 15 

Timor Mortis conturbat me. 

Down unto death go all estates, 
Prelates, and kings, and potentates, 
Baith rich and poor of all degree; 

Timor Mortis conturbat me 20 

Death strikes the knichts upon the field, 
Full armoured, under helm, and shield, 
Victor in every fight is he; 

Timor Mortis conturbat me. 

That strong, unmerciful tyrand [tyrant] 25 

Taks, on the mother's breast sowkand, [sucking] 

The babe full of benignity; 

Timor Mortis conturbat me. 

He taks the champion in the stour, [storm, stir, or tumult 
The captain closed in the tour, of battle] 30 

The lady in bour full of beautie; 
Timor Mortis conturbat me. 

He spares no lord for his puissance, 
No clerk for his intelligence; 

His awful stroke may no man flee; 35 

Timor Mortis conturbat me. 

Masters of magic and astrology, 
Of rhetoric, logic, or theology, 


Are helped by no conclusions slee; 

Timor Mortis conturbat me. 40 

In medecine the best practicians, 
Of leeches, surgeons, and physicians, 
Themselves from death may not supplie; [defend] 

Timor Mortis conturbat me. 

I see that Makers, amang the lave, [among the rest] 45 
Play here their pageants, then go to grave; 
Death does not spare their facultie; 
Timor Mortis conturbat me. 

He came most piteously to devour 

The noble Chaucer, of Makers' flower, 50 

The Monk of Bury, and Gower, all three; 
Timor Mortis conturbat me. 

The gude Sir Hugh of Eglington, 
And eke Heriot, and Wyntown, 

He hath ta'en out of this countree; 55 

Timor Mortis conturbat me. 

He hath restrained (that scorpion dark) 
Maister James Afflek and John Clerk, 
Frae ballad-making and tragedy; 

Timor Mortis conturbat me. 60 

Holland and Barbour he has bereft; 
Alas, he has not with us left 
Sir Mungo Lockhart of the Lea! 
Timor Mortis conturbat me. 

Clerk of Tranent eke he has ta'en, 65 

That made th' adventures of Gawain, 
Sir Gilbert Hay ended has he; 
Timor Mortis conturbat me. 


He has blind Harry and Sandy Traill 

Slain with his shot of mortal hail, 70 

Which Patrick Johnstoun micht not flee; 
Timor Mortis conturbat me. 

He has reft Merseir his endite, [snatched; — manuscript] 
That did of luve so lively write, 

So short, so quick, of sentence hie; [high] 75 

Timor Mortis conturbat me. 

He has ta'en Roull of Aberdeen, 
And gentle Roull of Corstorphine; 
Two better fellows did not man see; 

Timor Mortis conturbat me. 80 

In Dumferline he has doun roun [has run down] 

Gude Maister Robert Henrysoun; 
Sir John the Ross embraced has he; 
Timor Mortis conturbat me. 

And he has now ta'en, last of a', 85 

Gude gentle Stobo and Quintin Schaw, 
For whom all mortals feel pitie! 
Timor Mortis conturbat me. 

Gude Maister Walter Kennedy 

At point of death lies verilly, 90 

Great ruth it is that this should be; 
Timor Mortis conturbat me. 

Since he has all my brethren ta'en, 
He will not let me live alane; 

Perforce I must his next prey be; 95 

Timor Mortis conturbat me. 

Since then for death remeid is none, [remedy] 

Best is that we for death dispone; [dispose, prepare] 


After our death that live may we; 

Timor Mortis conturbat me. ioo 


What is this life but a straight way to deid, [death] 

Whilk has a time to pass and nane to dwell; 

A sliding wheel us lent to seek remeid; [remedy] 

A free choice given to Paradise or Hell; 
A prey to death, whom vain is to repell; 

A short torment for infinite gladness, 

As short a joy for lasting heaviness. 

(Sawam lomjlaa 

(About 1474-1522) 

(From the Prologue to the JEneid, Bk. XII.) 

Welcome, the lord of licht, and lamp of day, 
Welcome, fost'rer of tender herbes green, 
Welcome, quick'ner of blooming blossoms sheen, 
Welcome, support of every root and vein, 
Welcome, comfort of all-kind fruit and grain, 
Welcome, the birdes bield upon the brere, [nest, shelter 
Welcome, maister and ruler of the year, briar] 

Welcome, welfare 1 of farmers at the ploughs, 
Welcome, repairer of woods, trees, and boughs, 
Welcome, depainter of the blooming meads, 
Welcome, the life of everything that spredes, 

1 Welfare; i. e., the w»ne who gives success to the farmer's la- 
bours, the source of his welfare. 


Welcome, the strength of all-kind bestial, 
Welcome be thy bricht beames gladding all, 
Welcome, celestial mirror and aspy, [sentinel] 

Arresting all that practise sluggardy. 15 


(From the Translation of the JEneid) 

The nicht came on, and every weary wicht [wight] 

Through out the earth has straightway caught a-richt 

The sound and pleasant sleep he liked best: 

The woods and raging waters were at rest; 

And the bricht stars their mid-course rolled doun; 5 

The fields are still, there is no noise nor soun; [sound] 

And beasts and birds which divers colours bear, 

And whatsoever in the braid lochs were, 

Or all that dwell 'neath the rough copse's spray, 

Through the nicht's silence slept there where they lay, 10 

Losing their busy thoughts and cares smart, 

All irksome toil forgot and out of heart. 

But the doomed, restless spirit did not so 

Of this Phoenician Queen, hapless Dido; 

For never mair may Dido sleep a wink, 15 

Nor nichtis rest in een or breast let sink: 

The heavy thoughts still multiply amain; 

Strong luve begins to rage and rise again, 

And felon storms of ire gan her to shake; 

Thus finally she starteth out, alaik! 20 

Revolving many thinges in her thought. 




(From The Dream, 1528) 

Into the Kalendes of Januarie, 

When Phoebus fresh, by moving circulair, 

From Capricorn, was entered in Aquarie, 

With blastes that the branches made full bare, 

The snaw, the sleet, perturbed all the air, 5 

And flemit Flora fra every bank and bus, [banished; 

Through support of the austere ^Eolus: bush] 

After that I the lang winteris nicht [winter's night] 

Had lain a-waking in my bed alone, 
Through heavy thought, that na way sleep I micht, 10 

Remembering of divers thinges gone: 

So, up I rose, and clothed me anon; 
By this, fair Titan, with his lemis licht, [gleams, flames] 
O'er all the land had spread his banners bricht. 

With cloak and hood I dressed me belive, [quickly] 15 
With double shoon, and mittens on my hands, 

Howbeit the air was richt penetrative, 

Yet, forth I fared, leaping across the lands, 
Towards the sea, to sport me on the sands, 

Because unbloomit was baith bank and brae; [without 20 

And so, as I was passing on the way, bloom] 

I met dame Flora, in dole weed disguised, [mourning 

Who, when 'twas May, was dulce and delectable, [sweet] 


With stalwart storms her sweetness was surprised, 

Her heavenly hues were turned into sable, 25 

Whilk sometime were to luvers amicable; 
Fled from the frost, the tender flowers I saw, 
Under dame Nature's mantle lurking law. [low] 

The little birds in flocks then saw I fle, [fly] 

And mak to Nature lamentatioun, 30 

They lighted doun beside me on a tree, 
Of their complaint I had compassioun, 
And, with a piteous exclamatioun, 

They said: Blessed be Summer with his flowers; 

And cursed be thou, Winter, with thy showers. 35 

Alas! Aurora, the silly lark gan cry, 

Where hast thou left thy balmy liquor sweet, 

That us rejoiced, mounting in the sky? 
Thy silver drops are turned into sleet: 
O fair Phoebus! where is thy wholesome heat? 40 

Why stiff rest thou thy heavenly pleasant face 

With misty vapours to be obscured, allace! [alas] 

Where art thou May, with June thy sister sheen, [shining] 

Well bordered with daisies of delight? 
And gentle July, with thy mantle green, 45 

Enamelled with roses, red and white? 

Now auld and cauld J anuar, in dispyte, 
Reaveth from us all pastime and pleasure; 
Alas! what gentle heart may this endure? 
Obscured are with cloudes odious 50 

The golden skyes of the Orient. 
Changing in sorrow our sang melodious, 

Whilk we had wont to sing with gude intent, 

Resounding to the heaven's firmament: 
But now our day is changed into nicht: 55 

With that they rose, and flew out of my sicht. 


Pensive in heart, passing full soberlie, 

Unto the sea forward I fared anone, [at once] 

The tide was out, the sand was smooth and drye, 

Then up and doun I mused, myself alone, 60 

Till that I spied a little cave of stone, 
High in a crag, upward I did approach 
Without delay, and climbed up in the roche: [rock] 

And purposed for passing of the time, 

Me to defend from ociositie, [idleness] 65 

With pen and paper to register in rime, 

Some merry matter of antiquitie; 

But idleness, ground of iniquitie, 
She made so dull my spirits me within, 
That I wist not at what end to begin; 70 

But sat still in that cave, where I micht see 

The weltering of the waves up and doun, 
And this false worldes instabilitie 

Unto that sea micht mak comparisoun, 

And of this worldes variatioun, 75 

To those that fix upon it their intent, 
Considering who have most, should most repent. 

So with my hood my head I happit warm, [wrapped] 

And in my cloak I folded baith my feet; 
I thought my corpse with cauld should tak no harm, [body] 80 

My mittens held my handes well in heat; 

The shelt'ring crag me covered from the sleet; 
There still I sat, my bones for to rest, 
Till Morpheus with sleep my sprite opprest. 

So through the boisterous blasts of ^Eolus, 85 

And through my walking on the nicht before, 

And through the seas moving marvelous. 
By Neptunus, with mony rout and roar, 


Constrained I was to sleep withouten more; 
And what I dreamed in conclusioun 90 

I shall you tell, a marvellous visioun. 


(From The Monarchy, 1553) 

Gentle redar, have at me na despite, 

Thinking that I presumptuously pretend, 

In vulgar tongue sa high mattere to write: 

But, where I miss, I pray thee to amend, 

By the unlearned I would the cause were kend, 5 

Of our maist miserable travail and torment, 

And how in earth na place is permanent. 

Howbeit that divers devoted cunning clerks, [learned 

In Latin tongue have written sundry books: writers] 

Our unlearned know little of their werks; 10 

Mair than they do the raving of the rooks: 

Wherefore to colliers, carters, and to cooks, 

To Jock and Tom, my rime shall be directet, 

By cunning men howbeit it will be lacket. [dispraised] 

Though every common may not be a clerk, 15 

And have no lore except their tongue maternal, 

Why should of God the marvellous heavenly werk 

Be hid from them, I think it not fraternal: 

The Father of heaven, who was and is eternal, 

To Moses gave the law on Mount Sinay 20 

Neither in Greek nor Latin, as I hear say. 

He writ the law in tables hard of stone, 
In their ain vulgar language of Hebrew; 


That all the bairns of Israel, every one, 

Micht know the law, and so the same ensue. 25 

But had he writ in Latin or in Grew, [Greek] 

It had to them been but a savourless jest, 

Ye may well wist God wrought all for the best. 

Aristotell, nor Plato, I hear sane, [said] 

Writ not their high philosophie natural, 30 

In Danish, Dutch, nor tongue Italian. 

But in the maist ornate tongue maternal, 

Whose fame and name do ring perpetual; 

Famous Virgill, the prince of poetrie, 

Nor Cicero, the flower of oratrie, 35 

Writ not in Caldie language, nor in Grew; 

Nor yet writ in the language Saracene; 

Nor in the natural language of Hebrew; [original] 

But in the Roman tongue, as may be seen, 

Whilk was their proper language, as I ween, 40 

When Romans ranked dominators, indeed, 

The ornate Latin was their proper leid. [language] 

The prophet David, King of Israel, 

Compiled the pleasant psalms of the Psaltair 

In his ain proper tongue, as I hear tell, 45 

And Solomon, who was his son and heir, 

Did mak his buke intill the tongue vulgair, 

Why should not their saying be to us shown 

In our language, I would the cause were known. 

Let doctors write their curious questiouns, 50 

And arguments, sown full of sophistrie; 
Their logic, and their high opiniouns, 
And their dark judgments of astronomie, 
Their medicine, and their philosophie; 


Let poets show their glorious ingyne, 
As ever they please, in Greek, or in Latine: 

But let us have the bookes necessare 
To commonweal and our salvatioun, 
Justly translated in our tongue vulgaire: 
And so I mak the supplicatioun, 
O gentle redar, have na indignatioun, 
Thinking I meddle with so high mattair: 
Now to my purpose forward will I fare. 

[genius] 55 



(From The Monarchy) 

Then shall a fire, as clerkes sayen, 

Mak all the hills and valleys plane, [smooth, level] 

From earth up to the heaven empyre, [empyrean] 

All be renewed by that fire, 

Purging all things materiall, 

Under the heaven imperiall: 

Baith earth and water, fire and air, 

Shall be mair perfect made and fair, 

That which before had mixed been, 

Shall there be purified and clean, 

The earth like crystal shall be clear, 

And every planet in his sphere 

Shall rest, withouten mair moving, 

Baith starry heaven and chrystalling: [crystalline] 

The first and highest heaven movabill, 

Shall stand, not turning, firm and stable. 

The sun into the orient 

Shall stand, and in the Occident 

Rest shall the moon, and be mair clear 

Than now is Phoebus in his sphere. 


Also that lantern of the heaven 

Shall give mair licht by degrees seven, 

Than it gave since the world began. 

The heaven renewed shall be than. [then] 

Likewise the earth, with such device, 25 

Shall match with heavenly paradise. 

So heaven and earth shall be all one, 

As meaneth the apostle John. 

The great sea shall na mair appear, 

But like the crystal pure and clear. 30 

Passing imaginatioun 

Of man to mak narratioun 

Of glory God hath done prepare 

For every one which cometh there, 

The whilk with eares, nor with een 35 

Of man, may not be heard, nor seen; 

With heart it is unthinkable, 

And with tongue unpronounceable; 

Whose pleasures shall be so perfite, 

Having in God so great delight, 40 

The space now of a thousand year 

That time shall not an hour appear, 

Whilk cannot comprehended be 

Till we that pleasant sicht shall see. 

The mair men looke on Phoebus bricht, 45 

The mair feeble shall be" their sicht, 
Just so let na men set their cure, [care] 

To search the high divine nature. 

But after this great judgement 

All things to us shall be patent. 50 

Let us with Paul our mind address, 

For he was full of heavenliness, 


Full humily he teached us [humbly] 

Not for to be too curious. 

Sufficient us for to implore 55 

Great God to bring us to His glore. [glory] 


(From The Monarchy) 

And furthermore, all dead things corporal 

Under the concave of the heaven empyre [empyrean] 

That now to labour subject are and thrall, 

Sun, moon, and stars, earth, water, air, and fire, 

In ane manere they have ane hot desire, 5 

Wishing that day, that they may be at rest, 

As Erasmus exponeth manifest. 

We see the great globe of the firmament 

Continually in moving marvellous; 

The seven planets contrary their intent, 10 

Are reft about with course contrarious; 

The wind and sea, with stormes furious; 

The troubled air, with frosts, and snaw, and rain, 

Unto that day they travel ever in pain. 

And all the angels of the orders nine, 15 

Having compassion of our miseries, 

They long after that day, and toward that fine, [end] 

To see us freed from our infirmities, 

And cleansed from these great calamities 

And troublous life, whilk never shall have end 20 

Until that day, I mak it to thee kend. [known] 


(About 1 500-1 564-5) 


(Psalm XXVII, 9.) 

Ah! my Lord, leave me not, 
Leave me not, leave me not, 
Ah! my Lord, leave me not, 

Thus mine alone: 
With ane burden on my back 5 

I may not bear, I am so weak, 
Lord, this burden from me tak, 

Or else I am gone. 

With sins I am laden sair, [sore] 

Leave me not, leave me not, 10 

With sins I am laden sair, 

Leave me not alone: 
I pray thee, Lord, therefore, 
Keep not my sins in store; 
Loose me, or I am forlore, [lost] 15 

And hear thou my moan. 

With Thy hands Thou hast me wrought, 

Leave me not, leave me not, 

With Thy hands Thou hast me wrought, 

Leave me not alone: 20 

I was sold and Thou me bought, 
With Thy blood Thou hast me coft; [purchased] 
Now am I hither sought 

To Thee, Lord, alone. 


I cry and call to Thee, 25 

To leave me not, to leave me not, 
I cry and call to Thee, 

To leave me not alone: 
All they that laden be, 

Thou bidst them come to Thee, 30 

Then shall they saved be, 

Through Thy mercy alone. 

Thou savest all the penitent, 

And leav'st them not, and leav'st them not' 

Thou savest all the penitent, 35 

And leav'st them not alone. 
All that will their sins repent, 
None of them shall be shent, [shamed] 

Suppose Thy bow be ready bent, 

Of them Thou killest none. 40 

Faith, hope, and charity, 
Leave me not, leave me not, 
Faith, hope, and charity, 

Leave me not alone. 
I pray Thee, Lord, grant me, 45 

These godly giftes three, 
Then shall I saved be, 

Doubt have I none. 

To the Father be all glore, [glory] 

That leaves us not, that leaves us not, 50 

To the Father be all glore, 

That leaves us not alone. 
Son and Holy Ghost e'ermore, 
As it is and was before; 
Through Christ our Saviour 55 

We are safe every one. 


Atexatttor ^rntt 

(i 5 25?-i 5 84) 


Depart, depart, depart, 

Alas! I must depart 

From her that has my heart, 

With heart full sore, 
Against my will indeed, 5 

And can find no remeid, [remedy] 

I wot the pains of deid [death] 

Can do no more. 

Now must I go, allace! [alas] 

From sicht of her sweet face, 10 

The ground of all my grace, 

And soverane: 
What chance that may fall me 
Shall I ne'er merry be, 
Until the time I see 15 

My sweet again. 

I go, and wot not where, 
I wander here and there, 
I weep and sigh richt sair, 

With paines smart: 20 

Now must I pass away 
Through wild and wandering way: 
Alas! this woeful day 
That we must part. 


Adieu, my own sweet thing, 25 

My joy and comforting, 
My mirth and solacing 

For earthly glore: [gl° r y] 

Fare well, my lady bricht, 
And my remembrance richt. 30 

Farewell, and have good nicht; 
I say no more. 


Lord God deliver me, allace! [alas] 

For thy great mercy, ruth and grace, 

Sore mourning, grovelling on my face, [sorely] 

Rue on my misery: 
O for the multitude and space 5 

Of thy high clemence, hear my case, [clemency] 

And my trespass expell and chase: 

Lord God deliver me. 

Wash me, and mak my soul serene 

From all iniquity that bene; 10 

Cleanse me of crime and mak me clean, 

All vices for to flee. 
For my transgressions have I seen, 
Whilk tortures me with tray and tene, [trouble, sorrow] 
And aye my sin before mine een; 15 

Lord God deliver me. 

Create, and firm within me found 
A heart immaculate and sound, 

1 Fiftieth in the Vulgate version; fifty-first in the English 


A steadfast heart renew and ground [establish] 

Within my breast to be. 
Fleme me not frae thy face fecound, [drive] [fertile] 
But let thy Holy Sprite abound; 

Lord God deliver me. 



True Thomas lay on Huntley bank; 

A ferlie spied he wi' his ee; [a sudden wonder] 
There he saw a lady bright 

Come riding doun by the Eildon Tree. 

Her skirt was o' the grass-green silk, 5 

Her mantle o' the velvet fine; 
At ilka tett o' her horse's mane, [knot, plait] 

Hung fifty sillar bells and nine. 

True Thomas he pu'd aff his cap, 

And louted low doun on his knee: 10 

'Hail to thee, Mary, Queen of Heaven! 

For thy peer on earth could never be.' 

'O no, O no, Thomas,' she said, 

'That name does not belong to me; 
I'm but the Queen o' fair Elfland 15 

That hither have come to visit thee. 

'Harp and carp, Thomas,' she said; [play and sing] 

'Harp and carp along wi' me; 
And if ye dare to kiss my lips, 

Sure of your body I shall be.' 20 


'Betide me weal, betide me woe, 

That weird shall never daunten me.' [fate] 

Syne he has kiss'd her on the lips, [after that] 

All underneath the Eildon Tree. 

'Now ye maun go wi' me,' she said, 25 

'Now, Thomas, ye maun go wi' me; 
And ye maun serve me seven years, 

Through weal or woe as may chance to be.' 

She's mounted on her milk-white steed, 

And she's ta'en Thomas up behind; 30 

And aye, whene'er her bridle rang, 

The steed gaed swifter than the wind. 

O they rade on, and farther on, 

The steed gaed swifter than the wind; 
Until they reach'd a desert wide, 35 

And living land was left behind. 

'Now, Thomas, light doun, light doun,' she said, 

'And lean your head upon my knee; 
Abide ye there a little space, 

And I will show you ferlies three. 40 

'O see ye not yon narrow road, 

So thick beset wi' thorns and briars? 
That is the Path of Righteousness, 

Though after it but few enquires. 

'And see ye not yon braid, braid road, 45 

That lies across the lily leven? [lawn] 

That is the Path of Wickedness, 

Though some call it the road to Heaven. 

'And see ye not yon bonny road 
That winds about the ferny brae? 50 


That is the road to fair Elfland, 

Where thou and I this night maun gae. 

'But, Thomas, ye sail haud your tongue, 

Whatever ye may hear or see; 
For speak ye word in Elfin-land, 55 

Ye'll ne'er win back to your ain countrie.' 

they rade on, and further on, 

And they waded rivers abune the knee; 
And they saw neither sun nor moon, 

But they heard the roaring of a sea. 60 

It was mirk, mirk night, there was nae starlight, 
They waded through red blude to the knee; 

For a' the blude that's shed on the earth 
Rins through the springs o' that countrie. 

Syne they came to a garden green, 65 

And she pu'd an apple frae a tree: 
'Take this for thy wages, Thomas,' she said, 

'It will give thee the tongue that can never lee.' 

'My tongue is my ain,' then Thomas he said; 

'A gudely gift ye wad gie to me! 70 

1 neither dought to buy or sell [could] 
At fair or tryst where I might be. 

'I dought neither speak to prince or peer, 

Nor ask of grace from fair ladye!' — 
'Now haud thy peace, Thomas,' she said, 75 

'For as I say, so must it be.' 

He has gotten a coat of the even cloth, 
And a pair o' shoon of the velvet green; 

And till seven years were come and gane, 

True Thomas on earth was never seen. 80 



As I was walking all alane, 

I heard twa corbies making a mane: [ravens] [moan] 

The tane unto the tither did say, 

'Whar sail we gang and dine the day?' 

Tn behmt yon auld fail dyke, [turf, sod] 5 

I wot there lies a new-slain knight; 

And naebody kens that he lies there 

But his hawk, his hound, and his lady fair. 

'His hound is to the hunting gane, 

His hawk to fetch the wild-fowl hame, 10 

His lady's ta'en anither mate, 

Sae we may mak' our dinner sweet. 

'Ye'll sit on his white hause-bane, [neck-bone] 

And I'll pike out his bonny blue e'en; 
Wi' ae lock o' his gowden hair 15 

We'll theek our nest when it grows bare. [thatch] 

'Mony's the one for him makes mane, 

But nane sail ken whar he is gane. 

O'er his white banes, when they are bare, 

The wind sail blaw for evermair.' 20 


(From Robin Hood and the Monk) 

In summer, when the shaws be sheen, [woods, groves] 

And leaves be large and long, 
It is full merry in fair forest 

To hear the fowles song: 


To see the deer draw to the dale, 

And leave the hilles hee, 
And shadow them in the leaves green, 

Under the green-wood tree. 



(About 1500) 

He. Be it right or wrong, these men among 

On women do complain; 
Affirming this, how that it is 

A labour spent in vain 
To love them wele; for never a dele 

They love a man again: 
For let a man do what he can 

Their favour to attain, 
Yet if a new to them pursue, 

Their first true lover than [then] 10 

Laboureth for naught; for from her thought 

He is a banished man. 

She. I say not nay, but that all day 

It is both written and said 
That woman's faith is, as who saith, 15 

All utterly decayed: 
But nevertheless, right good witness 

In this case might be laid 
That they love true and continue: 

Record the Nut-brown Maid, 20 

Which, when her love came her to prove, 


To her to make his moan, 
Would not depart; for in her heart 
She loved but him alone. 

He. Then between us let us discuss 25 

What was all the manere 
Between them two: we will also 

Tell all the pain in fere [in company together] 
That she was in. Now I begin, 

So that ye me answere: 30 

Wherefore all ye that present be, 

I pray you give an ear. 
I am the Knight. I come by night, 

As secret as I can, 
Saying, Alas! thus standeth the case, 35 

I am a banished man. 

She And I your will for to fulfil 

In this will not refuse; 
Trusting to show, in wordes few, 

That men have an ill use — 40 

To their own shame — women to blame, 

And causeless them accuse. 
Therefore to you I answer now, 

All women to excuse- 
Mine own heart dear, with you what cheer ? 45 

I pray you, tell anone; 
For, in my mind, of all mankind 

I love but you alone. 

He. It standeth so: a deed is do 

Whereof great harm shall grow: 50 

My destiny is for to die 

A shameful death, I trow; 
Or else to flee. The t' one must be. 

None other way I know 


But to withdraw as an outlaw, 55 

And take me to my bow. 
Wherefore adieu, mine own heart true! 

None other rede I can: [counsel, I know] 
For I must to the green-wood go, 

Alone, a banished man. 60 

She. O Lord, what is this worldis bliss, 

That change th as the moon! 
My summer's day in lusty May 

Is darked before the noon. 
I hear you say, farewell: Nay, nay, 65 

We depart not so soon. 
Why say ye so ? Whither will ye go ? 

Alas! what have ye done? 
All my welfare to sorrow and care 

Should change, if ye were gone: 70 

For, in my mind, of all mankind 

I love but you alone. 

He. I can believe it shall you grieve, 

And somewhat you distrain; 
But afterward, your paines hard 75 

Within a day or twain 
Shall soon aslake; and ye shall take 

Comfort to you again. 
Why should ye ought? for, to make thought, 

Your labour were in vain. 80 

And thus I do; and pray you to, 

As heartily as I can: 
For I must to the green-wood go, 

Alone, a banished man. 

She. Now, sith that ye have showed to me 85 

The secret of your mind, 
I shall be plain to you again, 


Like as ye shall me find. 
Sith it is so that ye will go, 

I will not live behind. 90 

Shall never be said the Nut-brown Maid 

Was to her love unkind. 
Make you ready, for so am I, 

Although it were anone; 
For, in my mind, of all mankind 95 

I love but you alone. 

He. Yet I you rede to make good heed 

What men will think and say: 
Of young, of old, it shall be told 

That ye be gone away 100 

Your wanton will for to fulfil, 

In green-wood you to play; 
And that ye might for your delight 

No longer make delay. 
Rather than ye should thus for me 105 

Be called an ill woman 
Yet would I to the green-wood go, 

Alone, a banished man. 

She. Though it be sung of old and young 

That I should be to blame, no 

Theirs be the charge that speak so large 

In hurting of my name: 
For I will prove that faithful love 

It is devoid of shame: 
In your distress and heaviness 115 

To part with you the same; 
And sure all tho that do not so [those] 

True lovers are they none: 
For, in my mind, of all mankind 

I love but you alone. 120 


He. I counsel you, Remember how 

It is no maiden's law 
Nothing to doubt, but to run out 

To wood with an outlaw. 
For ye must there in your hand bear 125 

A bow ready to draw; 
And as a thief thus must you live 

Ever in dread and awe; 
Whereby to you great harm might grow: 

Yet had I liever than 130 

That I had to the green-wood go, 

Alone, a banished man. 

She. I think not nay but as ye say; 

It is no maiden's lore; 
But love may make me for your sake, 135 

As I have said before, 
To come on foot, to hunt and shoot, 

To get us meat and store; 
For so that I your company 

May have, I ask no more. 140 

From which to part it maketh my heart 

As cold as any stone; 
For, in my mind, of all mankind 

I love but you alone. 

He. For an outlaw this is the law, 145 

That men him take and bind: 
Without pitie, hanged to be, 

And waver with the wind. 
If I had need (as God forbede!) 

What socours could ye find? 150 

Forsooth I trow, you and your bow 

For fear would draw behind. 
And no mervail; for little avail 


Were in your counsel than: 
Wherefore I'll to the green-wood go, 155 

Alone, a banished man. 

She. Right well know ye that women be 

But feeble for to fight; 
No womanhede it is, indeed, 

To be bold as a knight: 160 

Yet in such fear if that ye were 

With enemies day and night, 
I would withstand, with bow in hand, 

To grieve them as I might, 
And you to save; as women have 165 

From death men many one: 
For, in my mind, of all mankind 

I love but you alone. 

He. Yet take good hede; for ever I drede 

That ye could not sustain 170 

The thorny ways, the deep valleys, 

The snow, the frost, the rain, 
The cold, the heat; for dry or wete, 

We must lodge on the plain; 
And, us above, no other roof 175 

But a brake bush or twain: 
Which soon should grieve you, I believe; 

And ye would gladly than 
That I had to the green- wood go, 

Alone, a banished man. 180 

She. Sith I have here been partynere 

With you of joy and bliss, 
I must also part of your woe 

Endure, as reason is: 
Yet I am sure of one pleasure, 185 

And shortly it is this — 


That where ye be, me seemeth, parde, 

I could not fare amiss. 
Without more speech I you beseech 

That we were shortly gone; 190 

For, in my mind, of all mankind 

I love but you alone. 

He. If ye go thyder, ye must consider, [thither] 

When ye have lust to dine, 
There shall no meat be for to gete, 195 

Neither beer, ale, nor wine, 
No sheetes clean, to lie between, 

Made of thread and twine; 
None other house, but leaves and boughs, 

To cover your head and mine. 200 

Lo, mine heart sweet, this ill diete 

Should make you pale and wan: 
Wherefore I'll to the green- wood go, 

Alone, a banished man. 

She. Among the wild deer such an archere 205 

As men say that ye be, 
Ne may not fail of such vitayle 

Where is so great plente: 
And water clear of the rivere 

Shall be full sweet to me; 210 

With which in hele I shall right wele [health] 

Endure, as ye shall see; 
And, or we go, a bed or two 

I can provide anone; 
For, in my mind, of all mankind 215 

I love but you alone. 

He. Lo yet, before, ye must do more, 
If ye will go with me: 
As, cut your hair up by your ear, 


Your kirtle by the knee; 220 

With bow in hand for to withstand 

Your enemies, if need be: 
And this same night, before daylight, 

To woodward will I flee. 
If that ye will all this fulfil, 225 

Do it shortly as ye can: 
Else will I to the green-wood go, 

Alone, a banished man. 

She. I shall as now do more for you 

Than 'longeth to womanhede; [belongeth] 230 
To short my hair, a bow to bear, 

To shoot in time of need. 
O my sweet mother! before all other 

For you I have most drede! 
But now, adieu! I must ensue 235 

Where fortune doth me lead. 
All this make ye: Now let us flee; 

The day cometh fast upon: 
For, in my mind, of all mankind 

I love but you alone. 240 

He. Nay, nay, not so; ye shall not go, 

And I shall tell you why — 
Your appetite is to be light 

Of love, I well espy: 
For, right as ye have said to me, 245 

In likewise hardily 
Ye would answere whosoever it were, 

In way of company: 
It is said of old, Soon hot, soon cold; 

And so is a woman: 250 

Wherefore I to the wood will go, 

Alone, a banished man. 


She. If ye take heed, it is no need 

Such words to say to me; 
For oft ye prayed, and long assayed, 255 

Or I loved you, parde: 
And though that I of ancestry 

A baron's daughter be, 
Yet have you proved how I you loved, 

A squire of low degree; 260 

And ever shall, whatso befall, 

To die therefore anone; 
For, in my mind, of all mankind 

I love but you alone. 

He. A baron's child to be beguiled, 265 

It were a cursed deed! 
To be felaw with an outlaw — 

Almighty God forbede! 
Yet better were the poor squyere 

Alone to forest yede [went] 270 

Than ye shall say another day 

That by my cursed rede 
Ye were betrayed. Wherefore, good maid, 

The best rede that I can, 
Is, that I to the green-wood go, 275 

Alone, a banished man. 

She. Whatever befall, I never shall 

Of this thing be upbraid: 
But if ye go, and leave me so, 

Then have ye me betrayed. 280 

Remember you wele, how that ye dele; 

For if ye, as ye said, 
Be so unkind to leave behind 

Your love, the Nut-brown Maid, 
Trust me truly that I shall die 285 

Soon after ye be gone: 


For, in my mind, of all mankind 
I love but you alone. 

He. If that ye went, ye should repent; 

For in the forest now 290 

I have purveyed me of a maid 

Whom I love more than you: 
Another more fair than ever ye were 

I dare it well avow; 
And of you both each would be wroth 295 

With other, as I trow: 
It were mine ease to live in peace; 

So will I, if I can: 
Wherefore I to the wood will go, 

Alone, a banished man. 300 

She. Though in the wood I understood 

Ye had a paramour, 
All this may nought remove my thought, 

But that I will be your': 
And she shall find me soft and kind 305 

And courteous every hour; 
Glad to fulfil all that she will 

Command me, to my power: 
For had ye, lo, an hundred mo, 

Yet would I be that one: 310 

For, in my mind, of all mankind 

I love but you alone. 

He. Mine own dear love, I see the prove [proof] 

That ye be kind and true; 
Of maid, of wife, in all my life 315 

The best that ever I knew; 
Be merry and glad; be no more sad; 

The case is changed new; 
For it were ruth that for your truth 


Ye should have cause to rue. 320 

Be not dismayed, whatsoever I said 

To you when I began: 
I will not to the green-wood go; 

I am no banished man. 

She. These tidings De more glad to me 325 

Than to be made a queen, 
If I were sure they should endure; 

But it is often seen 
When men will break promise they speak 

The wordis on the splene. 330 

Ye shape some wile me to beguile, 

And steal from me, I ween: 
Then were the case worse than it was, 

And I more woe-begone: 
For, in my mind, of all mankind 335 

I love but you alone. 

He. Ye shall not need further to drede: 

I will not disparage 
You (God defend), sith you descend 

Of so great a linage. 340 

Now understand: to Westmoreland, 

Which is my heritage, 
I will you bring; and with a ring, 

By way of marriage 
I will you take, and lady make, 345 

As shortly as I can: 
Thus have you won an Earles son, 

And not a banished man. 

Here may ye see that women be 

In love meek, kind, and stable; 350 

Let never man reprove them than, 

Or call them variable; 


But rather pray God that we may 

To them be comfortable; 
Which sometime proveth such as He loveth, 355 

If they be charitable. 
For sith men would that women should 

Be meek to them each one; 
Much more ought they to God obey, 

And serve but Him alone. 360 


This ae night, this ae night. 

Every night and all, 
Fire, and sleet, and candle-light, 

And Christ receive thy saule. 

When thou from hence away art past, 5 

Every night and all, 
To Whinny-muir thou comest at last, 

And Christ receive thy saule. 

If ever thou gavest hosen and shoon, 

Every night and all, 10 

Sit thee down and put them on, 

And Christ receive thy saule. 

If hosen and shoon thou gavest nane, 

Every night and all, 
The Whinnes shall prick thee to the bare bane, 15 

And Christ receive thy saule. 

From Whinny-muir when thou mayst pass, 

Every night and all, 
To Brigg o' Dread thou comest at last, 

And Christ receive thy saule. 20 


From Brigg o' Dread when thou mayst pass, 

Every night and all, 
To Purgatory Fire thou comest at last, 

And Christ receive thy saule. 

If ever thou gavest meat or drink, 25 

Every night and all, 
The fire shall never make thee shrink, 

And Christ receive thy saule. 

If meat or drink thou gavest nane, 

Every night and all, 30 

The fire will burn thee to the bare bane, 

And Christ receive thy saule. 

This ae night, this ae night, 

Every night and all, 
Fire, and sleet, and candle-light, 35 

And Christ receive thy saule. 


(From God's Appeal to Man. About 1420) 

In sickness and in povertie, 

Be glad therein, thank Me for all, 
The more thou hast them in plentie, 

The nearer I shall come withal. 
Then say: "Lord, keep me nigh to Thee! 

At need, Lord, hear me when I call! 
Take from me health, prosperitie, 

Rather than let me from Thee fall." 



(About 1420) 

What is man, wot well I wolde, [would] 

That magnifies himself alway, 
What but a mark, made in the mould, 

But a clinging clot of clay? 
Thou shapest us for that we sholde [should] 5 

Have been in bliss for ever and aye: 
But now, alas, both young and old 

Forgetten it, both night and day. 
Ah! good Lord, what shall I say, 

I that stand in this degree ? 10 

I wot no thing that help me may 

But parce mihi, Domine. 


Make we merry in hall and hour. 
This time was born our Saviour. 

In this time God hath sent 
His own Son, to be present, 
To dwell with us in verament, 
God thai is our Saviour. 

In this time that is befall, 
A child was born in an ox stall, 
And after, He died for us all, 
God that is our Saviour. 

In this time an angel bright 
Met three shepherds on a night, 
He bade them go full quickly, right 
God that is our Saviour. 


In this time now pray we 

To Him that died for us on tree, 

Upon us all to have pitee, 15 

God thai is our Saviour. 


Make we merry both more and less, 
For now is the time of Christmas. 

Let no man come in to this hall, 
Groom, nor page nor yet marshal — 
But that some sport he bring withal, 
For now is the time of Christmas. 

If that he say he cannot sing, 5 

Some other sport then let him bring, 
That it may please at this feasting, 
For now is the time of Christmas. 

If he say he can naught do, 

Then for my love ask him no mo, 10 

But to the stocks then let him go, 
For now is the time of Christmas. 


What cheer? Good cheer, good cheer, good cheer! 
Be merry and glad this good new year! 

"Lift up your hearts and be ye glad 
In Christes birth," the angel bade; 
Say each to other, if any be sad: 
What cheer? 


Now heaven's King His birth hath take 5 

Joy and mirth we ought to make, 
Say each to other for His sake: 
What cheer? 

I tell you all with heart so free: 
Right welcome be ye all to me; 10 

Be glad and merry for charitie! 
What cheer? 


Can I not sing but hoy, 

When the jolly shepherd made so much joy? 

The shepherd upon a hill he sat, 

He had on him his tabard and hat, [rough cloak] 

His tar-box, his pipe, and his flagat; [bottle] 

His name was called jolly, jolly Wat; 

For he was a good herdes boy, 

Ut hoy! 
For in his pipe he made so much joy, 

Can I not sing but hoy, 

When the jolly shepherd made so much joy? 

The shepherd upon a hill was laid, 
Unto his girdle his dog was tayed; [tied] 

He had not slept but a little brayd, [space, time] 
But "Gloria in excelsis" was to him said. 

Ut hoy! 
For in his pipe he made so much joy. 

Can I not sing but hoy, 

When the jolly shepherd made so much joy? 


The shepherd on a hill he stode, 
Round about him his sheep they yode; [went, strayed] 
He put his hand under his hode, [hood] 20 

He saw a star as red as blode: 

Ut hoy! 
For in his pipe he made so much joy, 

Can I not sing but hoy, 

When the jolly shepherd made so much joy? 25 

"Now farewell Mall, and also Will, 

For my love go ye all still 

Unto I come again you till, 

And evermore, Will, ring thy bell." 

Ut hoy! 30 

For in his pipe he made so much joy, 

Can I not sing but hoy, 

When the jolly shepherd made so much joy ? 

"Now must I go where Christ was born; 

Farewell, I come again at morn. 35 

Dog, keep my sheep well fro the corn, 

And warn well, Warrock, when I blow my horn." 
Ut hoy! 

For in his pipe he made so much joy. 

Can I not sing but hoy, 40 

When the jolly shepherd made so much joy? 


(About 1500) 

Fill the cup, Philip, 

And let us drink a dram! 

Once or twice about the house, 
And leave where we began. 


I drink to you, sweetheart, 5 

So much as here is in, 
Desiring you to follow me, 

And do as I begin. 

And if you will not pledge, 

You shall bear the blame; 10 

I drink to you with all my heart, 

If you will pledge me the same. 


(About 1500) 

Make room, sirs, and let us be merry, 
With "Huffa, galand!" 

oing, "Tyrll on the berry," 

And let the wide world wind! 
Sing, "Friska jolly," 
With "Hey, trolly lolly," 
For I see well it is but folly 

For to have a sad mind! 


(In the Time of Henry VIII.) 

The hunt is up, the hunt is up, 

And it is well nigh day: 
And Harry our King, is gone hunting, 

To bring his deer to bay. 

The east is bright with morning light, 
And darkness it is fled, 


And the merry horn wakes up the morn 
To leave his idle bed. 

The horses snort to be at the sport, 

The dogs are running free, 10 

The woods rejoice at the merry noise 

Of hey tantara tee ree! 

The sun is glad to see us clad 

All in our lusty green, 
And smiles in the sky as he riseth high, 15 

To see and to be seen. 

Awake, all men, I say again, 

Be merry as you may, 
For Harry our King is gone hunting, 

To bring his deer to bay. 20 


(1 6th Century) 

My heart is high above, my body is full of bliss, 

For I am set in luve as well as I would wiss; 

I luve my lady pure and she luves me again, 

I am her serviture, she is my soverane; 

She is my very heart, I am her hope and heill, 

She is my joy inward, I am her luvar leal; 

I am her bond and thrall; she is at my command; 

I am perpetual her man, both foot and hand; 

The thing that may her please my body shall fulfil; 

Whatever her disease, it does my body ill. : 

My bird, my bonny ane, my tender babe venust, [delightful] 

My luve, my life alane, my liking and my lust! 


Luvers in pain, I pray God send you sic remeid 
As I have nicht and day, you to defend from deid. 
Therefore be ever true unto your ladies free, 15 

And they will on you rue as mine has done on me. 


Death, rock me to sleep, 
Bring me to quiet rest, 

Let pass my weary guiltless ghost 

Out of my careful breast. 

Toll on the passing bell; 5 

Ring out my doleful knell; 

Thy sound my death abroad will tell, 

For I must die, 

There is no remedy. 

My pains who can express ? 10 

Alas, they are so strong; 

My dolours will not suffer strength 

My life for to prolong. 

Toll on the passing bell; 

Ring out my doleful knell; 15 

Thy sound my death abroad will tell, 

For I must die, 

There is no remedy. 

Alone in prison strong 

1 wail my destiny. 20 
Woe worth this cruel hap that I 

Must taste this misery. 

Toll on the passing bell; 

Ring out my doleful knell; 

Thy sound my death abroad will tell, 25 

For I must die, 

There is no remedy. 


Farewell, my pleasures past, 

Welcome my present pain. 

I feel my torment so increase 30 

That life cannot remain. 

Toll on the passing bell; 

Ring out my doleful knell; 

Thy sound my death abroad will tell, 

For I must die, 35 

There is no remedy. 

Cease now the passing bell; 

Ring out my doleful knell. 

For thou my death dost tell 

Lord pity thou my soul. 40 

Death doth draw nigh. 

Sound dolefully; 

For now I die, 

I die, I die. 

William GtettiBlf 

(d. 1524?) 


Pleasure it is 

To hear, iwis, [certainly, truly] 

The birdes sing. 
The deer in the dale, 
The sheep in the vale, 5 

The corn springing; 
God's purveyance 
For sustenance 

It is for man. 
Then we always 10 


To Him give praise, 

And thank Him than, [then] 

And thank Him than. 



Pla ce bo, 

Who is there, who? 

Di le xi, 

Dame Marjery; 

Fa re my my, 5 

Wherefore and why, why? 

For the soul of Philip Sparrow 

That was late slain at Carow, 

Among the nunnes blake, [black nuns] 

For that sweet soul's sake, 10 

And for all sparrows' souls 

Set in our bead roules, 

Pater noster qui 

With an Ave Maria, 

And with the corner of a creed 15 

The more shall be your meed. 

When I remember again 
How my Philip was slain, 
Never half the pain 

Was between you twain, 20 

Pyramus and Thisbe, 
As then befell to me; 
I wept and I wailed, 
The tears down hailed, 

3 o8 


But nothing it availed 

To call Philip again 

Whom Gib our cat hath slain. 


Gib, I say, our cat, 
Worrowed her on that; 
Which I loved best 
It cannot be expressed; 
My sorrowful heaviness 
But all without redress, 
For within that stound, 
Half slumbering in a swounde, 
I fell down to the ground. 

Scarcely I cast mine eyes 
Toward the cloudy skies, 
But when I did behold 
My Sparrow dead and cold, 
No creature but that wold 
Have pitied upon me 
To behold and see 
What heaviness did me pange 
Wherewith my hands I wrange, 
That my sinews cracked 
As though I had been racked, 
So pained and so strained, 
That no life well remained. 









I sighed, and I sobbed, 
For that I was robbed 
Of my Sparrow's life; 
O maiden, widow, and wife, 
Of what estate ye be 
Of high or low degree, 
Great sorrow then ye might see, 
And learn to weep at me; 




Such pains did me freat [damage] 

That mine heart did beat, 

My visage pale and dead, 60 

Wan, and blue as lead, 

The pangs of hateful death 

Well-nigh stopped my breath. 

Heu, heu, me, 
That I am woe for thee! 65 

Ad dominum cum tribularer clamavi, 
Of God nothing else crave I. 


And if ye stand in doubt 

Who brought this rime about, 

My name is Colin Clout. 

I purpose to shake out 

All my cunning bag, 5 

Like a clerkly hag; 

For though my rime be ragged, 

Tattered and jagged, 

Rudely rain beaten, 

Rusty and moth eaten, 10 

If ye talk well therewith 

It hath in it some pith. 

For as far as I can see, 

It is wrong with each degree; 

For the temporalty 15 

Accuseth the spiritualty; 

The spiritual again 

Doth grudge and complain 

Upon temporal men; 

Thus each of other blother, [chatter] 20 

The one against the other: 



Alas they make me shudder! 
For in hugger mugger 
The church is put at fault; 
The prelates be so haut 
They say, and look so high, 
As though they would fly 
Above the starry sky. 

[proud] 25 

Laymen say indeed 
How they take no heed 
Their silly sheep to feed, 
But pluck away and pull 
The fleeces of their wool; 
Unnethes they leave a lock [scarcely] 

Of wool among their flock. 
And as for their cunning 
A glumming and a mumming, 
And make thereof a jape, [j es ^] 

They gaspe and they gape 
All to have promotion; 
There is their whole devotion, 
With money, if it will hap [chance] 

To catch the forked cap, 
Forsooth they are too lewd [ignorant] 

To say so all be shrewd. 






Merry Margaret, 
As midsummer flower, 
Gentle as falcon, 
Or hawk of the tower; 
With solace and gladness 
Much mirth and no madness 
All good and no badness; 


So joyously, 

So maidenly, 

So womanly, 10 

Her demeaning, 

In everything, 

Far, far passing, 

That I can indite, 

Or suffice to write, 15 

Of merry Margaret, 
As midsummer flower, 
Gentle as falcon 
Or hawk of the tower. 
As patient and as still, 20 

And as full of good-will, 
As fair Isaphil, 
Sweet Pomander, 

Good Cassander; 25 

Steadfast of thought, 
Well made, well wrought, 
Far may be sought, 
Ere ye can find 

So courteous, so kind, 30 

As merry Margaret, 
This midsummer flower, 
Gentle as falcon, 
Or hawk of the tower. 


(About 1 509-1 579) 

g>tr atfjamas Ugatf 

( I 5°3- I 542) 

(From TotteVs Miscellany, 1557) 

Like unto these immeasurable mountains 
So is my painful life, the burden of ire; 
For high be they, and high is my desire; 
And I of tears, and they be full of fountains: 
Under craggy rocks they have barren plains; 5 

Hard thoughts in me my woful mind doth tire: 
Small fruit and many leaves their tops do attire: 
With small effect great trust in me remains: 
The boisterous winds oft their high boughs do blast; 
Hot sighs in me continually be shed: 10 

Wild beasts in them, fierce love in me is fed; 
Unmovable am I, and they steadfast. 

Of singing birds they have the tune and note; 
And I always plaints passing through my throat. 



Forget not yet the tried intent 
Of such a truth as I have meant; 
My great travail so gladly spent, 

Forget not yet! 
Forget not yet when first began 5 

The weary life ye know since whan 
The suit, the service none tell can; 

Forget not yet! 
Forget not yet the great assays, 
The cruel wrong, the scornful ways 10 

The painful patience in delays, 

Forget not yet! 
Forget not! oh! forget net this, 
How long ago hath been, and is 
The mind that never meant amiss, 15 

Forget not yet! 
Forget not then thine own approv'd, 
The which so long hath thee so lov'd, 
Whose steadfast faith yet never mov'd: 

Forget not this! 20 


(From TotteVs Miscellany, 1557) 

In Court to serve decked with fresh array, 

Of sugar' d meats feeling the sweet repast, 
The life in banquets and sundry kinds of play 
Amid the press of worldly looks to waste, 
Hath with it join'd oftimes such bitter taste, 
That whoso joys such kind of life to hold, 
In prison joys, fettered with chains of gold. 



(From Tottel's Miscellany, 1557) 

Stand, whoso list, upon the slipper wheel [slippery] 
Of high estate; and let me here rejoice, 

And use my life in quietness each dele, [part] 

Unknown in court that hath the wanton toys: 

In hidden place my time shall slowly pass, 5 

And when my years be past withouten noise, 
Let me die old after the common trace; 

For gripes of death doth he too hardly pass, 

That knowen is to all, but to himself, alas, 

He dieth unknown, dased with dreadful face. 10 


And wilt thou leave me thus? 
Say nay! say nay! for shame! 
To save thee from the blame 
Of all my grief and grame. [sorrow] 

And wilt thou leave me thus ? 5 

Say nay! say nay! 

And wilt thou leave me thus ? 
That hath lov'd thee so long? 
In wealth and woe among: 
And is thy heart so strong 10 

As for to leave me thus? 
Say nay! say nay! 

Amd wilt thou leave me thus ? 
That hath given thee my heart 
Never for to depart; 15 

Neither for pain nor smart: 
And wilt thou leave me thus? 


Say nay! say nay! 

And wilt thou leave me thus? 
And have no more pity, 
Of him that loveth thee ? 
Alas! thy cruelty! 
And wilt thou leave me thus? 
Say nay! say nay! 


(From TotteV s Miscellany, 1557) 

Mine own John Poins, since ye delight to know 

The causes why that homeward I me draw, 
And fly the press of courts, whereso they go; 

Rather than to live thrall under the awe 
Of lordly looks; wrapped within my cloak; 5 

To will and lust learning to set a law: 
It is not that because I scorn or mock 

The power of them, whom fortune here hath lent 
Charge over us, of right to strike the stroke: 

But true it is that I have always meant 10 

Less to esteem them than the common sort. 

Of outward things that judge in their intent 
Without regard what inward doth resort. 

I grant, sometime of glory that the fire 
Doth touch my heart. Me list not to report 15 

Blame by honour, and honour to desire 
But how may I this honour now attain 

That cannot dye the colour black a liar? 
My Poins, I cannot frame my tune to feign, 

To cloak the truth, for praise without desert 20 

Of them that list all vice for to retain. 

I cannot honour them that set their part 
With Venus and Bacchus all their life long; 


Nor hold my peace of them, although I smart. 
I cannot crouch nor kneel to such a wrong; 25 

To worship them like God on earth alone, 
That are as wolves these sely lambs among, [happy] 

I cannot with my words complain and moan, 
And suffer nought; nor smart without complaint: 

Nor turn the word that from my mouth has gone. 30 
I cannot speak and look like as a saint; 

Use wiles for wit and make deceit a pleasure, 
Call crafty counsel, for lucre still to paint. 

I cannot wrest the law to fill the coffer, 
With innocent blood to feed myself fat, 35 

And do most hurt, where that most help I offer. 

This is the cause that I could never yet 
Hang on their sleeves that weigh, as thou mayst see, 

A chip of chance more than a pound of wit: 
This maketh me at home to hunt and hawk; 40 

And in foul weather at my book to sit; 
In frost and snow, then with my bow to stalk; 

No man doth mark whereso I ride or go: 
In lusty leas at liberty I walk; 

And of these news I feel nor weal nor woe; 45 

Save that a clog doth hang yet at my heel. 

No force for that, for it is order'd so, 
That I may leap both hedge and dyke full well. 

I am not now in France, to judge the wine; 
With savoury sauce those delicates to feel: 50 

Nor yet in Spain, where one must him incline, 
Rather than to be, outwardly to seem. 

I meddle not with wits that be so fine; 
Nor Flanders cheer lets not my sight to deem 

Of black, and white; nor takes my wits away 55 

With beastliness; such do those beasts esteem, 

Nor I am not, where truth is given in prey 


For money, poison, and treason; of some 
A common practice, used night and day. 

But I am here in Kent and Christendom, 60 

Among the Muses, where I read and rhyme; 

Where if thou list, my own John Poins, to come, 
Thou shalt be judge how I do spend my time. 

If enrg ijflurarft, Earl of g>urmj 

(1 517?-! 547) 


(From Tottel' s Miscellany, 1557) 

The soote season that bud and bloom forth brings, [sweet] 

With green hath clad the hill, and eke the vale. 
The nightingale with feathers new she sings; 

The turtle to her mate hath told her tale. 
Summer is come, for every spray now springs, 5 

The hart hath hung his old head on the pale; 
The buck in brake his winter coat he slings; 

The fishes fleet with new repaired scale; 
The adder all her slough away she slings; 

The swift swallow pursueth the flies smale; [small] 10 
The busy bee her honey now she mings; [mingles] 

Winter is worn that was the flowers' bale. 

And thus I see among these pleasant things 
Each care decays, and yet my sorrow springs! 


(From TotteVs Miscellany, 1557) 

Brittle beauty, that Nature made so frail, 
Whereof the gift is small, and short the season; 


Flowering to-day, tomorrow apt to fail; 

Tickle treasure, abhorred of reason: 
Dangerous to deal with, vain, of no avail; 5 

Costly in keeping, past not worth two peason ; [two pease] 
Slipper in sliding, as is an eel's tail; [slippery] 

Hard to obtain, once gotten, not geason: 
Jewel of jeopardy, that peril doth assail; 

False and untrue, enticed oft to treason; 10 

Enemy to youth, that most may I bewail; 

Ah! bitter sweet, infecting as the poison, 

Thou farest as fruit that with the frost is taken; 
To-day ready ripe, tomorrow all to shaken. 


(From T ottel' s Miscellany, 1557) 

Alas! so all things now do hold their peace! 

Heaven and earth disturbed in no thing; 
The beasts, the air, the birds their song do cease, 

The nightes car the stars about doth bring. 
Calm is the sea; the waves work less and less: 5 

So am not I, whom love, alas! doth wring, 
Bringing before my face the great increase 

Of my desires, whereat I weep and sing, 
In joy and woe, as in a doubtful case. 

For my sweet thoughts sometime do pleasure bring; 10 
But by and by, the cause of my disease 

Gives me a pang, that inwardly doth sting, 
When that I think what grief it is again, 
To live and lack the thing should rid my pain. 



(From TotteVs Miscellany, 1557) 

Martial, the things that do attain 

The happy life, be these, I find: 
The riches left, not got with pain; 

The fruitful ground, the quiet mind: 

The equal friend, no grudge, no strife; 5 

No charge of rule, nor governance; 

Without disease, the healthful life; 
The household of continuance: 

The mean diet, no delicate fare; 

True wisdom join'd with simpleness; 10 

The night discharged of all care; 

Where wine the wit may not oppress: 

The faithful wife, without debate; 

Such sleeps as may beguile the night. 
Contented with thine own estate; 15 

Ne wish for death, ne fear his might. 


(From Tottel's Miscellany, 1557) 

Laid ; n my quiet bed, in study as I were, 

I saw within my troubled head a heap of thoughts appear; 

And every thought did show so lively in mine eyes, 


That now I sigh'd, and then I smiled, as cause of thought 

did rise. 
I saw the little boy in thought how oft that he 
Did wish of God to scape the rod, a tall young man to be. 
The young man eke that feels his bones with pains opprest, 
How he would be a rich old man, to live and lie at rest. 
The rich old man that sees his end draw on so sore, 
How he would be a boy again, to live so much the more. 
Whereat full oft I smiled, to see how all these three, 
From boy to man, from man to boy, would chop and 

change degree. 
And musing thus I think, the case is very strange, 
That man from wealth, to live in woe, doth ever seek to 

Thus thoughtful as I lay, I saw my wither'd skin, 
How it doth shew my dented chews, the flesh was worn so 

And eke my toothless chaps, the gates of my right way, 
That opes and shuts as I do speak, do thus unto me say: 
"Thy white and hoarish hairs, the messengers of age, 
That shew, like lines of true belief, that this life doth 

assuage; : 

Bid thee lay hand, and feel them hanging on thy chin; 
The which do write two ages past, the third now coming in. 
Hang up therefore the bit of thy young wanton time : 
And thou that therein beaten art, the happiest life define." 
Whereat I sigh'd and said: "Farewell! my wonted joy; : 
Truss up thy pack, and trudge from me to every little boy; 
And tell them thus from me; their time most happy is, 
If, to their time, they reason had, to know the truth of this." 





(From Book II.) 

Us caitiffs then a far more dreadful chance 
Befel, that troubled our unarmed breasts. 
While Laocoou, that chosen was by lot 
Neptunus' priest, did sacrifice a bull 

Before the holy altar; suddenly 5 

From Tenedon, behold! in circles great 
By the calm seas came floating adders twain, 
Which plied towards the shore (I loath to tell) 
With reared breast lift up above the seas; 
Whose bloody crests aloft the waves were seen; 10 

The hinder part swam hidden in the flood. 
Their grisly backs were linked manifold. 
With sound of broken waves they gat the strand, 
With glowing eyen, tainted with blood and fire; 
Whose welt'ring tongues did lick their hissing mouths. 15 
We fled away; our face the blood forsook: 
But they with gait direct to Lacon ran. 
And first of all each serpent doth enwrap ♦ 

The bodies small of his two tender sons; 
Whose wretched limbs they bit, and fed thereon. 20 

Then raught they him, who had his weapon caught [reached] 
To rescue them; twice winding him about, 
With folded knots and circled tails, his waist: 
Their scaled backs did compass twice his neck, 
With reared heads aloft and stretched throats. 25 

He with his hands strave to unloose the knots, 


(Whose sacred fillets all-besprinkled were 

With filth of gory blood, and venom rank) 

And to the stars such dreadful shout he sent, 

Like to the sound the roaring bull forth lows, 30 

Which from the altar wounded doth astart, 

The swerving axe when he shakes from his neck. 

The serpents twain, with hasted trail they glide 

To Pallas' temple, and her towers of height: 

Under the feet of the which Goddess stern, 35 

Hidden behind her target's boss they crept. 


(From Book IV.) 

It was then night; the sound and quiet sleep 
Had through the earth the wearied bodies caught: 
The woods, the raging seas were fallen to rest; 
When that the stars had half their course declined, 
The fields whist, beasts, and fowls of divers hue, 
And whatso that in the broad lakes remained, 
Or yet among the bushy thicks of brier, 
Laid down to sleep by silence of the night 
'Gan swage their cares, mindless of travails past. 

Hurt* 5ftj0ttra0 Hum 

(About 1 5 10-1557) 

(From Paradise of Dainty Devices, 1578) 

When all is done and said, 
In th' end thus shall you find; 


He most of all doth bathe in bliss, 

That hath a quiet mind: 
And, clear from worldly cares, 5 

To deem can be content, 
The sweetest time in all his life 

In thinking to be spent. 

The body subject is 

To fickle Fortune's power, 10 

And to a million of mishaps 

Is casual every hour: 
And Death in time doth change 

It to a clod of clay; 
When as the mind, which is divine, 15 

Runs never to decay. 

Companion none is like 

Unto the mind alone, 
For many have been harm'd by speech, 

Through thinking, few, or none. 20 

Fear oftentimes restraineth words, 

But makes not thoughts to cease; 
And he speaks best, that hath the skill 

When for to hold his peace. 

Our wealth leaves us at death, 25 

Our kinsmen at the grave: 
But virtues of the mind unto 

The heavens with us have. 
Wherefore, for virtue's sake, 

I can be well content 30 

The sweetest time in all my life, 

To deem in thinking spent. 



(From Paradise of Dainty Devices, 1578) 

How can the tree but waste and wither away 
That hath not sometime comfort of the sun? 

How can the flower but fade and soon decay 
That always is with dark clouds overrun? 

Is this a life? Nay! death I may it call, 5 

That feels each pain and knows no joy at all. 

What foodless beast can live long in good plight? 

Or is it life where senses there be none? 
Or what availeth eyes without their light ? 

Or else a tongue to him that is alone ? 10 

Is this a life? Nay! death I may it call, 
That feels each pain and knows no joy at all. 

Whereto serve ears, if that there be no sound? 

Or such a head where no device doth grow. 
But all of plaints, since sorrow is the ground 15 

Whereby the heart doth pine in deadly woe ? 
Is this a life? Nay! death I may it call, 
That feels each pain and knows no joy at all. 

uHjmttaa EmBtv 



What wisdom more, what better life, than pleaseth God 
to send, 

What worldly goods, what longer use, than pleaseth God 
to lend? 


What better fare than well content, agreeing with thy 

What better guest than trusty friend, in sickness and in 


What better bed than conscience good, to pass the night 
with sleep, 5 

What better work than daily care, from sin thyself to 

What better thought than think on God, and daily Him 

to serve, 
What better gift than to the poor, that ready be to 

sterve ? [starve] 

What greater praise of God and man, than mercy for to 

Who, merciless, shall mercy find, that mercy shews to 

few ? 10 

What worse despair, than loth to die for fear to go to 

What greater faith than trust in God, through Christ in 

heaven to dwell? 


Since first the world began, there was and shall be still, 
Of human kind, two sundry sorts, th' one good and th' 

other ill; 
Which till the judgment day shall here together dwell, 
But then the good shall up to heaven, the bad shall down 

to hell. 


(i52 3 ?-i 5 66) 


(From Paradise of Dainty Devices, 1578) 

When May is in his prime, 

Then may each heart rejoice; 
When May bedecks each branch with green, 

Each bird strains forth his voice. 

The lively sap creeps up 5 

Into the blooming thorn; 
The flowers, which cold in prison kept, 

Now laugh the frost to scorn. 

All Nature's imps triumph 

While joyful May doth last; 10 

When May is gone, of all the year 

The pleasant time is past. 

May makes the cheerful hue; 

May breeds and brings new blood; 
May marcheth throughout every limb; 15 

May makes the merry mood. 

May pricketh tender hearts 

Their warbling notes to tune; 
Full strange it is, yet some, we see, 

Do make their May in June. 20 


Thus things are strangely wrought 

Whiles joyful May doth last: 
Take May in time! When May is gone, 

The pleasant time is past. 

All ye that live on earth, 25 

And have your May at will, 
Rejoice in May, as I do now, 

And use your May with skill! 

Use May while that you may, 

For May hath but his time! 30 

When all the fruit is gone it is 

Too late the tree to climb. 

Your liking and your lust 

Is fresh whiles May doth last; 
When May is gone, of all the year 35 

The pleasant time is past. 

(1540 ?-i 610) 


My girl, thou gazest much 

Upon the golden skies: 

Would I were Heaven, I would behold 

Thee then with all mine eyes. 


(i 53 6?-i577) 


(From The Posies, 1575) 

Sing lullaby, as women do, 

Wherewith they bring their babes to rest, 

And lullaby can I sing too, 

As womanly as can the best. 

With lullaby they still the child, 5 

And if I be not much beguiled, 

Full many wanton babes have I, 

Which must be stilled with lullaby. 

First lullaby my youthful years, 
It is now time to go to bed, 10 

For crooked age and hoary hairs, 
Have won the haven within my head: 
With lullaby then youth be still, 
With lullaby content thy will, 

Since courage quails and comes behind, 15 

Go sleep, and so beguile thy mind. 

Next lullaby my gazing eyes, 
Which wonted were to gaze apace 
For every glass may now suffice, 
To shew the furrows in my face: 20 

With lullaby then wink awhile, 
With lullaby your looks beguile: 
Let no fair face, nor beauty bright, 
Entice you eft with vain delight. [afterward] 


And lullaby my wanton will, 25 

Let Reason's rule now reign thy thought, 
Since all too late I find by skill, 
How dear I have thy fancies bought. 
With lullaby now take thine ease, 
With lullaby thy doubts appease: 30 

For trust to this, if thou be still, 
My body shall obey thy will. 

Thus lullaby my youth, mine eyes, 
My will, my ware, and all that was, 
I can no more delays devise, 35 

But welcome pain, let pleasure pass: 
With lullaby now take your leave, 
With lullaby your dreams deceive, 
And when you rise with waking eye 
Remember then this lullaby. 40 


(From The Posies, 1575) 

From depth of dole wherein my soul doth dwell, 

From heavy heart which harbours in my breast, 

From troubled spirit which seldom taketh rest, 

From hope of heaven, from dread of darksome hell. 

O gracious God, to thee I cry and yell. 5 

My God, my Lord, my lovely Lord alone, 

To thee I call, to thee I make my moan. 

And thou (good God) vouchsafe in gree to take, [good 

This woeful plaint will] 

Wherein I faint. 10 

Oh hear me then for thy great mercies' sake. 


If thou good Lord should'st take thy rod in hand, 
If thou regard what sins are daily done, 
If thou take hold where we our works begun, 
If thou decree in judgement for to stand, 15 

And be extreme to see our excuses scanned, 
If thou take note of everything amiss, 
And write in rolls how frail our nature is, 
O glorious God, O King, O Prince of power, 
What mortal wight 20 

May then have light 
To feel thy frown, if thou have list to lower? 

But thou art good and hast of mercy store, 
Thou not delight'st to see a sinner fall, 
Thou hearknest first, before we come to call. 25 

Thine ears are set wide open evermore, 
Before we knock thou comest to the door. 
Thou art more pressed to hear a sinner cry, 
Than he is quick to climb to thee on high. 
Thy mighty name be praised then alway, 30 

Let faith and fear 
True witness bear, 
How fast they stand which on thy mercy stay. 

Before the break or dawning of the day, 
Before the light be seen in lofty skies, 35 

Before the Sun appear in pleasant wise, 
Before the watch (before the watch I say) 
Before the ward that waits therefore alway: 
My soul, my sense, my secret thought, my sprite, 
My will, my wish, my joy, and my delight: 40 

Unto the Lord that sits in Heaven on high, 
With hasty wing 
From me doth fling, 
And striveth still unto the Lord to fly. 


He will redeem our deadly drooping state, 45 

He will bring home the sheep that go astray, 
He will help them that hope in him alway: 
He will appease our discord and debate, 
He will soon save though we repent us late. 
He will be ours if we continue his, 50 

He will bring bale to joy and perfect bliss. 
He will redeem the flock of his elect, 
From all that is, 
Or was amiss, 
Since Abraham's heirs did first his laws reject. 55 



. . . And thus I sing, when pleasant spring begins, 
Like Philomene, since every jangling bird, 
Which squeaketh loud shall never triumph so, 
As though my muse were mute and durst not sing. 

And thus I sing, with harmless true intent, 
Like Philomene, when as per case 
The cuckoo sucks mine eggs by foul deceit, 
And licks the sweet which might have fed me first. 

And thus I moan, in mournful wise to sing, 
A rare conceit, (God grant it like my lord) 10 

A trusty tune, from ancient cliffs conveyed, 
A plain song note which cannot warble well. 

For whiles I mark this weak and wretched world, 
Wherein I see how every kind of man 

Can flatter still, and yet deceives himself, 15 

I seem to muse from whence such error springs, 


Such gross conceits, such mists of dark mistake. 

Such Surcuydry, such weening over well, [pride] 

And yet in deed such dealings too too bad. 

And as I stretch my weary wits to weigh 20 

The cause thereof, and whence it should proceed, 

My battered brains, which now be shrewdly bruised 

With cannon shot of much misgovernment, 

Can spy no cause, but only one conceit, 

Which makes me think the world goeth still awry. 25 

I see and sigh, because it makes me sad, 

That peevish pride doth all the world possess, 

And every wight will have a looking-glass 

To see himself, yet so he seeth him not: 

Yea, shall I say? a glass of common glass, 30 

Which glisteneth bright and shews a seemly show, 
Is not enough; the days are past and gone, 
That Berral glass, with foils of lovely brown, 
Might serve to shew a seemly favoured face. 
That age is dead and vanished long ago, 35 

Which thought that steel both trusty was and true, 
And needed not a foil of contraries, 
But shewed all things even as they were indeed. 
Instead whereof our curious years can find 
The crystal glass which glimmereth brave and bright, 40 

And shews the thing much better than it is, 
Beguiled with foils, of sundry subtle sights, 
So that they seem and covet not to be. 

This is the cause (believe me now my lord) 
That realms do rue, from high prosperity, 45 

That kings decline from princely government, 
That Lords do lack their ancestors' good will, 
That knights consume their patrimony still, 
That gentlemen do make the merchant rise, 
That ploughmen beg and craftsmen cannot thrive, 50 


That clergy quails and hath small reverence, 

That laymen live by moving mischief still, 

That courtiers thrive, at latter Lammas day, 

That officers can scarce enrich their heirs, 

That soldiers starve or preach at Tyburn Cross, 55 

That lawyers buy and purchase deadly hate, 

That merchants climb and fall again as fast, 

That roisterers brag, above their betters roam, 

That sycophants are counted jolly guests, 

That Lais leads a lady's life aloft, 60 

And Lucrece lurks with sober bashful grace. 

This is the cause (or else my Muse mistakes) 
That things are thought which never yet were wrought, 
And castles built above in lofty skies, 

Which never yet had good foundation. 65 

And that the same may seem no feigned dream, 
But words of worth and worthy to be weighed, 
I have presumed, my Lord for to present 
With this poor glass, which is of trusty steel, 
And came to me by will and testament 70 

Of one that was a Glassmaker indeed. 

And therewithal to comfort me again, 

I see a world of worthy government 

A commonwealth, with policy so ruled 

As neither laws are sold nor justice bought 75 

Nor riches sought, unless it be by right, 

Nor cruelty nor tyranny can reign, 

No right revenge doth raise rebellion, 

No spoils are ta'en although the sword prevail, 

No riot spends the coin of commonwealth, 80 

No rulers hoard the country's treasure up, 

No man grows rich by subtlety nor sleight: 

All people dread the magistrates' decree, 


And all men fear the scourge of mighty Jove. 

Lo this, my lord, may well deserve the name 85 

Of such a land as milk and honey flows. 

And this I see within my glass of steel 

Set forth even so by Solon, worthy wight, 

Who taught king Croesus what it is to seem 

And what to be, by proof of happy end. 90 

The like Lycurgus, Lacedemon king, 

Did set to shew by view of this my glass, 

And left the same, a mirrour to behold, 

To every prince of his posterity. 

But now, aye me! the glazing crystal glass 95 

Doth make us think that realms and towns are rich 

Where favour sways the sentence of the law, 

Where all is fish that cometh to the net, 

Where mighty power doth over-rule the right, 

Where injuries do foster secret grudge, 100 

Where bloody sword makes every booty prize, 

Where banqueting is counted comely cost, 

Where officers grow rich by princes' pens 

Where purchase comes by covin and deceit, \jraud] 

And no man dreads but he that cannot shift, 105 

Nor none serve God but only tongue-tied men 

Well, thus, my Knight hath held me all too long, 

Because he bare such compass in my glass. 

High time were then to turn my weary pen 

Unto the Peasant coming next in place. no 

And here, to write the sum of my conceit, 

I do not mean a-lonely husbandmen [merely, only] 

Which till the ground, which dig, delve, mow and sow, 

Which swink and sweat whiles we do sleep and snort, 

And search the guts of earth for greedy gain, 115 

But he that labours any kind of way 


To gather gains and to enrich himself 

By King, by Knight, by holy helping Priests, 

And all the rest that live in commonwealth, 

So that his gains by greedy guiles be got, 120 

Him can I count a Peasant in his place. 

AH officers, all advocates at law, 

All men of art which get goods greedily, 

Must be content to take a Peasant's room. 

These knacks, my lord, I cannot call to mind, 125 

Because they shew not in my glass of steel. 

But holloa! here I see a wondrous sight, 

I see a swarm of saints within my glass: 

Behold, behold, I see a swarm indeed 

Of holy saints which walk in comely wise, 130 

Not decked in robes, nor garnished with gold, 

But some unshod, yea some full thinly clothed, 

And yet they seem so heavenly for to see 

As if their eyes were all of diamonds, 

Their face of rubies, sapphires, and jacinets, 135 

Their comely beards and hair of silver wires 

And to be short, they seem angelical. 

What should they be, my lord, what should they be ? 

O gracious God, I see now what they be. 

These be my priests which pray for every state, 140 

These be my priests divorced from the world 

And wedded yet to heaven and holiness, 

Which are not proud, nor covet to be rich, 

Which go not gay, nor feed on dainty food, 

Which envy not nor know what malice means, 145 

Which loath all lust, disdaining drunkenness, 

Which cannot feign, which hate hypocrisy, 

Which never saw Sir Simony's deceits, 

Which preach of peace, which carp contentions, [chide\ 


Which loiter not but labour all the year, 150 

Which thunder threats of God's most grievous wrath, 
And yet do teach that mercy is in store. 

Lo, these, my lord, be my good praying priests, 

Descended from Melchisedec by line, 

Cousins to Paul, to Peter, James and John, 155 

These be my priests, the seasoning of the earth, 

Which will not lease their savouriness I trow. 

Not one of these, for twenty hundred groats, 

Will teach the text that bids him take a wife, 

And yet be cumbered with a concubine; 160 

Not one of these will read the holy writ 

Which doth forbid all greedy usury, 

And yet receive a shilling for a pound; 

Not one of these will preach of patience, 

And yet be found as angry as a wasp; 165 

Not one of these can be content to sit 

In taverns, inns, or alehouses all day, 

But spends his time devoutly at his books; 

Not one of these will rail at rulers' wrongs, 

And yet be bloated with extortion; 170 

Not one of these will paint out worldly pride, 

And be himself as gallant as he dare; • 

Not one of these rebuketh avarice, 

And yet procureth proud pluralities; 

Not one of these reproveth vanity, 175 

Whiles he himself, with hawk upon his fist 

And hounds at heel, doth quite forget his text; 

Not one of these corrects contentions 

For trifling things, and yet will sue for tithes; 

Not one of these, not one of these, my lord, 180 

Will be ashamed to do even as he teacheth. 

My priests have learned to pray unto the Lord, 

And yet they trust not in their lip-labour. 

My priests can fast and use all abstinence 


From vice and sin, and yet refuse no meats 185 

My priests can give in charitable wise 

And love also to do good almes deeds, 

Although they trust not in their own deserts. 

My priests can place all penance in the heart, 

Without regard of outward ceremonies. 190 

My priests can keep their temples underlled 

And yet defy all superstition. 

Lo now, my lord, what think you by my priests? 
Although they were the last that shewed themselves, 
I said at first their office was to pray, 195 

And since the time is such even now-a-days 
As hath great need of prayers truly prayed, 
Come forth, my priests, and I will bid your beads: 
I will presume, although I be no priest, 
To bid you pray as Paul and Peter prayed. 200 

Then pray, my priests, yea pray to God himself 
That he vouchsafe, even for his Christes sake 
To give his word free passage here on earth, 
And that his church (which is now militant) 
May soon be seen triumphant over all, 205 

And that he deign to end this wicked world, 
Which walloweth still in sinks of filthy sin. 

Now these be past (my priests) yet shall you pray 

For common people, each in his degree, 

That God vouchsafe to grant them all his grace. 210 

Where should I now begin to bid my beads? 

Or who shall first be put in common place ? 

My wits be weary and my eyes are dim, 

I cannot see who best deserves the room. 

Stand forth, good Peerce, thou ploughman by thy name, 215 

Yet so the Sailor saith I do him wrong: 


That one contends his pains are without peer, 

That other saith that none be like to his; 

Indeed they labour both exceedingly. 

But since I see no shipman that can live 220 

Without the plough, and yet I many see 

Which live by land that never saw the seas: 

Therefore I say, stand forth Peerce ploughman first, 

Thou winnest the room by very worthiness. 

Behold him, priests, and though he stink of sweat 225 

Disdain him not: for shall I tell you what? 
Such climb to heaven before the shaven crowns: 
But how? forsooth with true humility. 
Not that they hoard their grain when it is cheap, 
Nor that they kill the calf to have the milk, 230 

Nor that they set debate between their lords, 
By earing up the baulks that part their bounds: 
Nor for because they can both crouch and creep, 
The guilefullest men that ever God yet made, 
When as they mean most mischief and deceit, 235 

Nor that they can cry out on landlords loud, 
And say they rack their rents an ace too high, 
When they themselves do sell their landlords' lamb 
For greater price than ewe was wont be worth. 
I see you, Peerce, my glass was lately scoured. 240 

But for their feed with fruits of their great pains 
Both King and Knight and Priests in cloister pent: 
Therefore I say that sooner some of them 
Shall scale the walls that lead us up to heaven 
Than corn-fed beasts, whose belly is their God, 245 

Although they preach of more perfection. 

And yet, my priests, pray you to God for Peerce, 
As Peerce can pinch it out for him and you. 
And if you have a Paternoster spare, 
Then shall you pray for Sailors (God them send 250 


More mind of him when as they come to land, 

For toward shipwreck many men can pray,) 

That they once learn to speak without a lie, 

And mean good faith without blaspheming oaths; 

That they forget to steal from every freight, 255 

And for to forge false cockets, free to pass; 

That manners make them give their betters place, 

And use good words though deeds be nothing gay. 

But here methinks my priests begin to frown 
And say that thus they shall be overcharged 260 

To pray for all which seem to do amiss: 
And one I hear, more saucy than the rest, 
Which asketh me, when shall our prayers end? 
I tell thee, priest, when shoemakers make shoes 
That are well sewed, with never a stitch amiss, 265 

And use no craft in uttering of the same; 
When tailors steal no stuff from gentlemen, 
When tanners are with curriers well agreed, 
And both so dress their hides that we go dry; 
When cutlers leave to sell old rusty blades, 270 

And hide no cracks with solder nor deceit, 
When tinkers make no more holes than they found, 
When thatchers think their wages worth their work, 
When colliers put no dust into their sacks, 
When maltmen make us drink no firmenty, 275 

When Davie Diker digs and dallies not, 
When smiths shoe horses as they would be shod, 
When millers toll not with a golden thumb, 
When bakers make not barm bear price of wheat, 
When brewers put no bagage in their beer, [worthless stuff, 280 
When butchers blow not over all their flesh, adulterant] 
When horse coursers beguile no friends with jades, 
When weavers' weight is found in housewives' web. 
(But why dwell I so long among these louts?) 

When mercers make more bones to swear and lie, 285 


When vintners mix no water with their wine, 

When printers pass none errors in their books, 

When hatters use to buy none old cast robes, 

When goldsmiths get no gains by soldered crowns, 

When upholsterers sell feathers without dust, 290 

When pewterers infect no tin with lead, 

When drapers draw no gains by giving day, 

When parchmentiers put in no ferret silk, 

When surgeons heal all wounds without delay: 

(Tush, these are toys, but yet my glass sheweth all.) 295 

When purveyors provide not for themselves, 

When takers take no bribes nor use no brags, 

When customers conceal no covine used, 

When searchers see all corners in a ship, 

(And spy no pens by any sight they see) 300 

When shrives do serve all process as they ought, [sheriffs] 

When bailiffs strain none other things but strays, 

When auditors their counters cannot change, 

When proud surveyors take no parting pens, 

When silver sticks not on the tellers' fingers, 305 

And when receivers pay as they receive, 

When all these folk have quite forgotten fraud, 

(Again, my priests, a little by your leave) 

When sycophants can find no place in court 

But are espied for echoes, as they are, 310 

When roisterers ruffle not above their rule, 

Nor colour craft by swearing precious coles: [falsehoods] 

When fencers' fees are like to apes' rewards, 

A piece of bread and therewithal a bob, 

When Lais lives not like a lady's peer, 315 

Nor useth art in dyeing of her hair, 

When all these things are ordered as they ought, 

And see themselves within my glass of steel, 

Even then, my priests, may you make holiday, 

And pray no more but ordinary prayers. 320 


And yet therein I pray you, my good priests, 
Pray still for me and for my glass of steel, 
That it nor I do any mind offend, 
Because we shew all colours in their kind. 
And pray for me that, since my hap is such 325 

To see men so, I may perceive myself. 
O worthy words, to end my worthless verse, 
Pray for me, Priests, I pray you, pray for me. 

SljomaB j^arktrilte, ffinrb Surkljurat anb Earl 
af BaxBtt 




The wrathful winter, 'proching on apace 
With blustering blasts had all ybared the treen, [trees] 
And old Saturnus, with his frosty face, 
With chilling cold had pierced the tender green; 
The mantles rent, wherein enwrapped been 5 

The gladsome groves that now lay overthrowen, 
The tapets torn, and every bloom down blowen. [tapestry: 

The soil that erst so seemly was to seen, 
Was all despoiled of her beauty's hue; 

And sweet fresh flowers (where with the summer's queen 10 
Had clad the earth) now Boreas' blasts down blew, 
And small fowles flocking, in their song did rue 
The winter's wrath, where with each thing defaste [de- 
In woeful wise bewailed the summer past. faced] 


Hawthorne had lost his motley livery, 15 

The naked twigs were shivering all for cold, 

And dropping down the tears abundantly; 

Each thing (me thought) with weeping eye me told 

The cruel season, bidding me withhold 

Myselfe within, for I was gotten out 20 

Into the fields, whereas I walked about. [where] 

When, lo, the night with misty mantles spread, 

Gan dark the day, and dim the azure skies, 

And Venus in her message Hermes sped 

To bloody Mars, to will him not to rise, 25 

While she herself approached in speedy wise; 

And Virgo hiding her disdainful breast, 

With Thetis now had lain her down to rest. 

Whiles Scorpio dreading Sagittarius' dart, 

Whose bow prest bent in fight, the string had slipt, [ready] 30 

Down slid into the ocean flood apart, 

The Bear, that in the Irish seas had dipt 

His grisly feet, with speed from thence he whipt; 

For Thetis, hasting from the Virgin's bed 

Pursued the Bear, that ere she came was fled. 35 

And Phaeton now reaching to his race 

With glistering beams, gold streaming where they bent, 

Was prest to enter in his resting place. 

Erythius that in the cart first went, 

Had even now attained his journey's stent: [limit: end] 40 

And fast declining hid away his head, 

While Titan couched him in his purple bed. 

And pale Cynthea with her borrowed light, 

Beginning to supply her brother's place, 

Was past the noonstead six degrees in sight, 45 


When sparkling stars amid the heaven's face, 

With twinkling light shone on the earth apace, 

That while they brought about the nightes chare, [car] 

The dark had dimmed the day ere I was ware. 

And sorrowing I to see the summer flowers, 50 

The lively green, the lusty leas forlorne, 

The sturdy trees so shattered with the showers, 

The fields so fade that flourished so beforne; 

It taught me well all earthly things be borne 

To die the death, for nought long time may last; 55 

The summer's beauty yields to winter's blast. 

Then looking upward to the heaven's leames, [gleams: 

With nightes stars thick powdered everywhere, lights] 

Which erst so glistened with the golden streams 

That cheerfull Phoebus spread down from his sphere, 60 

Beholding dark oppressing day so near; 

The sudden sight reduced to my mind, [brought back] 

The sundry changes that in earth we find. 

That musing on this worldly wealth in thought, 

Which comes and goes more faster than we see, 65 

The flickering flame that with the fire is wrought, 

My busy mind presented unto me 

Such fall of peers as in this realm had be; 

That oft I wisht some would their woes descryve, [describe] 

To warn the rest whom fortune left alive. 70 

And straight forth stalking with redoubled pace, 

For that I saw the night drew on so fast, 

In black all clad there fell before my face 

A piteous wight, whom woe had all forwaste, 

Forth from her eyen the crystal tears outbrast, [out-burst] 75 

And sighing sore, her hands she wrong and fold, 

Tare all her hair, that ruth was to behold. 


Her body small forewithered and forespent, 

As is the stalk that summer's drought opprest, 

Her wealked face with woeful tears besprent, [withered] 80 

Her colour pale, and (as it seemed her best) 

In woe and plaint reposed was her rest. 

And as the stone that drops of water wears; 

So dented were her cheeks with fall of tears. 

Her eyes swollen with flowing streams afloat, 85 

Wherewith her looks throwen up full piteously, 

Her forceless hands together oft she smote, 

With doleful shrieks, that echoed in the sky; 

Whose plaint such sighs did straight accompany, 

That in my doom was never man did see [judgment] 90 

A wight but half so woebegone as she. 

I stood aghast, beholding all her plight, 

Tween dread and dolour so distraind in heart, 

That while my hairs upstarted with the sight, 

The tears out-streamed for sorrow of her smart: 95 

But when I saw no end that could apart 

The deadly dole, which she so sore did make, 

With doleful voice then thus to her I spake. 

"Unwrap thy woes whatever wight thou be, 

And stint in time to spill thyself with plaint; [stop: de- 100 

Tell what thou art, and whence, for well I see stroy, injure] 

Thou canst not dure with sorrow thus attaint." 

And with that word of sorrow all forfaint, 

She looked up, and, prostrate as she lay, 

With piteous sound, lo, thus she gan to say, 105 

"Alas, I wretch whom thus thou seest distrained 
With wasting woes, that never shall aslake, 
Sorrow I am, in endless torments pained 
Among the Furies in the infernal lake; 


Where Pluto, god of hell, so grisly black no 

Doth hold his throne and Letheus deadly taste 
Doth reave remembrance of each thing forepast. 

Whence come I am, the dreary destiny 

And luckless lot for to bemoan of those, 

Whom Fortune in this maze of misery, 115 

Of wretched chance, most woeful mirrours chose, 

That when thou seest how lightly they did lose 

Their pope, their power, and that they thought most sure, 

Thou mayest soon deem no earthly joy may dure." 

Whose rueful voice no sooner had out brayed 120 

Those woeful words, wherewith she sorrowed so, 

But out, alas, she shrieked and never stayed, 

Fell down, and all to-dashed herself for woe. 

The cold pale dread my limbs gan overgo, 

And so I sorrowed at her sorrow's eft, [again] 125 

That, what with grief and fear, my wits were reft. 

I stretched myself, and straight my heart revives, 

That dread and dolour erst did so appale; [appal] 

Like him that with the fervent fever strives, 

When sickness seeks his castle's health to scale: 130 

With gathered spirits so forced I fear to avail; 

And, rearing her with anguish all fordone, [raising] 

My spirits return'd, and then I thus begonne. 

"O Sorrow, alas, sith sorrow is thy name, 

And that to thee this drere doth well pertain, [gloom] 135 

In vain it were to seek to cease the same: 

But as a man himself with sorrow slain, 

So I, alas, do comfort thee in pain, 

That here in sorrow art forsunk so deep, 

That at thy sight I can but sigh and weep." 140 


I had no sooner spoken of a stike, 

But that the storm so rumbled in her breast, 

As ^Eolus could never roar the like, 

And showers down rained from her eyen so fast, 

That all bedreynt the place, till at the last [bedrenched] 145 

Well eased they the dolour of her mind, 

As rage of rain doth swage the stormy wind. 

For forth she paced in her fearful tale: 

"Come! come!" quoth she, "and see what I shall shewe, 

Come hear the plaining and the bitter bale 150 

Of worthy men, by fortune overthrowe. 

Come thou and see them ruing all in rowe, 

They were but shades that erst in mind thou rolde. [consid- 

Come, come, with me, thine eyes shall them behold." ered] 

What could these words but make me more aghast: 155 

To hear her tell whereon I mused while ere: [shortly before] 

Musing upon her words and what they were, 

All suddenly well lessened was my fear: 

For to my mind returned how she telde 160 

Both what she was, and where her wun she helde. [dwelling] 

Whereby I knew that she a goddess was, 

And, therewithall, resorted to my mind 

My thought that late presented me the glass 

Of brittle state, of cares that here we find, 165 

Of thousand woes to silly men assigned: 

And how she now bid me come and behold, 

To see with eye that erst in thought I rolde. [revolved] 

Flat down I fell, and with all reverence 

Adored her, perceiving now that she, 170 

A goddess sent by godly providence 

In earthly shape thus showed herself to me, 

To wail and rue this world's uncertainty: 


And while I honoured thus her godhead's might, 

With plaining voice these words to me she shright: 175 

[shrieked, cried] 
"I shall thee guide first to the grisly lake, 
And thence unto the blissful place of rest, 
Where thou shalt see and hear the plaint they make, 
That whilom here bare swinge among the best. [swav] 
This shalt thou see, but great is the unrest 1S0 

That thou must bide, before thou canst attain 
Unto the dreadful place where these remain." 

And with these words as I upraised stood, 

And gan to follow her that straight forth paced, 

Ere I was ware, into a desert wood 185 

We now were come: where hand in hand embraced, 

She led the way and through the thicke so traced, [thicket] 

As but I had been guided by her might, 

It was no way for any mortal wight. 

But lo, while thus amid the desert dark, 190 

We passed on with steps and pace unmeet: 

A rumbling roar, confused with howl and bark 

Of dogs, shook all the ground under our feet, 

And struck the din within our ears so deep 

As, half distraught, unto the ground I fell, 195 

Besought return, and not to visit hell. 

But she, forthwith, uplifting me apace, 

Removed my dread, and with a steadfast mind 

Bade me come on, for here was now the place, 

The place where we our travail's end should find. 200 

Wherewith I arose, and to the place assigned 

Astoynde I stalk, when straight we approached near [as- 

The dreadful place, that you will dread to hear, tonished] 

An hideous hole all vast, withouten shape, 

Of endless depth, o'erwhelmed with ragged stone, 205 



With ugly mouth, and grisly jaws doth gape, 

And to our sight confounds itself in one. 

Here entered we, and yeding forth, anone [going] 

An horrible loathly lake we might discern. 

As black as pitch, that cleped is Averne. [called] 210 

A deadly gulf where nought but rubbish grows, 

With foul black swelth in thickened lumpes lies, [swollen 

Which up in the air such stinking vapours throws, masses] 

That over there may fly no fowl but dies, 

Choked with the pestilent savours that arise. 215 

Hither we came, whence forth we still did pace, 

In dreadful fear amid the dreadful place. 

And first within the porch and jaws of hell, 

Sat deep Remorse of Conscience, all besprent 

With tears: and to her self oft would she tell 220 

Her wretchedness, and cursing, never stent [cease] 

To sob and sigh: but ever thus lament, 

With thoughtful care, as she that, all in vain, 

Would wear and waste continually in pain. 

Her eyes unsteadfast, rolling here and there, 225 

Whirled on each place, as place chat vengeance brought, 

So was her mind continually in fear, 

Tossed and tormented with the tedious thought 

Of those detested crimes which she had wrought: 

With dreadful cheer, and looks thrown to the sky, 230 

Wishing for death, and yet she could not die. 

Next saw we Dread, all trembling how he shook, 

With foot uncertain proffered here and there: 

Benumbed of speech, and with a ghastly look 

Searched every place, all pale and dead for fear, 235 

His cap borne up with starting of his heare, [hair] 

'Stoin'd and amazed at his own shade for dread, [asion- 

And fearing greater dangers than was need. ished] 


And next, within the entry of this lake, 

Sat fell Revenge, gnashing her teeth for ire, 240 

Devising means how she may vengeance take, 

Never in rest till she have her desire: 

But frets within so far forth with the fire [exceedingly] 

Of wreaking flames, that now determines she 

To die by death, or 'venged by death to be. 245 

When fell Revenge, with bloody foul pretence 

Had shewed herself, as next in order set, 

With trembling limbs we softly parted thence, 

Till in our eyes another sight we met: 

When fro my heart a sigh forthwith I fet, [fetched] 250 

Rueing, alas, upon the woful plight 

Of Misery, that next appeared in sight. 

His face was lean, and somedeal pined away, [somewhat] 

And eke his hands consumed to the bone, 

But what his body was I cannot say, 255 

For on his carcass raiment had he none, 

Save cloutes and patches pieced one by one 

With staff in hand, and scrip on shoulders cast, 

His chief defence against the winter's blast. 

His food, for most, was wild fruits of the tree, 260 

Unless sometimes some crumbs fell to his share, 

Which in his wallet long, God wot, kept he, 

As on the which full daint'ly would he fare. 

His drink the running stream: his cup the bare 

Of his palm closed: his bed the hard cold ground: 265 

To this poor life was Misery ybound. 

Whose wretched state when we had well beheld, 

With tender ruth on him and on his fears, 

In thoughtful cares forth then our pace we held; 


And by and by another shape appears, 270 

Of greedy Care, still brushing up the breres, 

His knuckles knob'd, his flesh deep dented in, 

With tawed hands, and hard ytanned skin, [roughened: 

The morrow gray no sooner had begun 

To spread his light, even peeping in our eyes, 275 

When he is up and to his work yrun: 

But let the night's black misty mantles rise, 

And with the foul dark never so much disguise 

The fair bright day, yet ceaseth he no while, 

But hath his candles to prolong his toil. 280 

By him lay heavy Sleep, the cousin of Death, 

Flat on the ground, and still as any stone, 

A very corpse, save yielding forth a breath 

Small keep took he whom Fortune frowned on, 

Or whom she lifted up into the throne 285 

Of high renown, but as a living death, 

So dead alive, of life he drew the breath. 

The body's rest, the quiet of the heart, 

The travail's ease, the still night's fere was he, [companion] 

And of our life in earth the better part; 290 

Reaver of sight, and yet in whom we see 

Things oft that tide, and oft that never be. [happen] 

Without respect, esteeming equally 

King Croesus' pomp, and Irus' poverty. 

And, next in order, sad Old Age we found, 295 

His beard all hoar, his eyes hollow and blind, 

With drooping cheer still poring on the ground, 

As on the place where nature him assigned 

To rest, when that the Sisters had untwined 

His vital thread, and ended with their knife 300 

The fleeting course of fast declining life. 


There heard we him with broken and hollow plaint 

Rue with himself his end approaching fast, 

And all for naught his wretched mind torment 

With sweet remembrance of his pleasures past, 305 

And fresh delights of lusty youth forwaste; 

Recounting which, how would he sob and shriek 

And to be young again of Jove beseek. 

But, and the cruel fates so fixed be, 

That time forpast can not return again, 310 

This one request of Jove yet prayed he: 

That in such withered plight and wretched pain, 

As eld (accompanied with his loathsome train) 

Had brought on him, all were it woe and grief, 

He might a while yet linger forth his lief, [life] 315 

And not so soon descend into the pit, 

Where death, when he the mortal corpse hath slain, 

With reckless hand in grave doth cover it; 

Thereafter never to enjoy again 

The gladsome light, but in the ground ylain, 320 

In depth of darkness waste and wear to nought, 

As he had never into the world been brought. 

But who had seen him sobbing, how he stood 

Unto himself, and how he would bemoan 

His youth forpast, as though it wrought him good 325 

To talk of youth, all were his youth foregone, 

He would have mused and marvelled much whereon 

This wretched Age should life desire so fain, 

And knows full well life does but length his pain. 

Crook backt he was, toothshaken, and blear eyed, 330 

Went on three feet, and sometimes crept on fower, [Jour] 
With old lame bones that rattled by his side, 


His scalp all pilde, and he with eld forlore: [bald] 

His withered fist still knocking at Death's door, 
Fumbling and drivelling as he draws his breath, 335 

For brief, the shape and messenger of Death. 

And fast by him pale Malady was placed, 

Sore sick in bed, her colour all forgone, 

Bereft of stomach, savour, and of taste, 

Ne could she brook no meat, but broth alone 340 

Her breath corrupt, her keepers every one 

Abhorring her, her sickness past recure, [recovery] 

Detesting physick, and all physick's cure. 

But oh! the doleful sight that then we see; 

We turned our look and on the other side 345 

A grisly shape of Famine might we see, 

With greedy looks, and gaping mouth, that cried 

And roar'd for meat, as she should there have died; 

Her body thin and bare as any bone, 

Whereto was left nought but the case alone. 350 

And, that, alas, was gnawen on every where, 

All full of holes, that I ne might refrain 

From tears, to see how she her arms could tear, 

And with her teeth gnash on the bones in vain: 

When all for nought she fain would all sustain 355 

Her starven corpse, that rather seemed a shade, 

Than any substance of a creature made. 

Great was her force, whom stone wall could not stay, 

Her tearing nails scratching at all she saw; 

With gaping jaws that by no means ymay 360 

Be satisfied from hunger of her maw, 

But eats herself as she that hath no law: 

Gnawing, alas, her carcass all in vain, 

Where you may count each sinew, bone, and vein. 


On her while we thus firmly fixed our eyes, 365 

That bled for ruth of such a dreary sight, 

Lo, suddenly, she shrieked in so huge wise 

As made hell gates to shiver with the might. 

Wherewith, a dart we saw, how it did light 

Right on her breast, and therewithal pale Death 370 

Enthrilling it, to reave her of her breath, [piercing: transfixing] 

And, by and by, a dumb dead corpse we saw, 

Heavy and cold, the shape of Death aright, 

That daunts all earthly creatures to his law; 

Against whose force in vain it is to fight: 375 

Ne peers, ne princes, nor no mortal wight, 

Ne towns, ne realms, cities, ne strongest tower, 

But all perforce must yield unto his power. 

His dart anon out of the corpse he took, 

And in his hand (a dreadful sight to see) 380 

With great triumph eftsoons the same he shook, [straight- 

That most of all my fears aff rayed me: way] 

His body dight with nought but bones, parde, 

The naked shape of man there saw I plain, 

All save the flesh, the sinew, and the vein. 385 

Lastly stood War in glittering arms yclad, 

With visage grim, stern looks, and blackly hued; 

In his right hand a naked sword he had, 

That to the hilts was all with blood embrued; 

And in his left (that kings and kingdoms rued) 390 

Famine and fire he held, and therewithal 

He razed towns, and threw down towers and all. 

Cities he sacked, and realms (that whilom flowered 

In honour, glory, and rule above the best) 

He overwhelmed, and all their fame devoured, 395 


Consumed, destroyed, wasted, and never ceased, 
Till he their wealth, their name, and all oppressed: 
His face forehewed with wounds, and by his side [cut in 
There hung his targe with gashes deep and wide, front] 

In midst of which, depainted there, we found 400 

Deadly Debate, all full of snaky hair, 

That with a bloody fillet was ybound, 

Out breathing nought but discord everywhere: 

And round about were portrayed here and there 

The hugie hosts, Darius and his power, 405 

His kings, princes, his peers, and all his flower; 

Whom great Macedo vanquished there in fight, 

With deep slaughter, dispoiling all his pride, 

Pierc'd through his realms, and daunted all his might. 

Duke Hannibal beheld I there beside, 410 

In Canna's field, victor how he did ride, 

And woeful Romans that in vain withstood, 

And Consul Paulus covered all with blood. 

Yet saw I more, the fight at Trasimene, 

And Treby field, and eke when Hannibal 415 

And worthy Scipio last in arms were seen 

Before Carthago gate, to try for all 

The world's empire, to whom it should befall. 

There saw I Pompey and Caesar clad in arms, 

Their hosts allied, and all their civil harms: [broils: evils] 420 

With conquerors' hands forbathed in their own blood, 

And Caesar weeping over Pompey's head. 

Yet saw I Scilla and Marius where they stood, 

Their great cruelty, and the deep bloodshed 

Of friends: Cyrus I saw and his host dead, 425 

And how the queen with great despight hath flung 

His head in blood of them she overcome 


Xerxes, the Persian king, yet saw I there, 

With his huge host that drank the rivers dry, 

Dismounted hills and made the vales uprear, 430 

His host and all yet saw I slain, parde. 

Thebes I saw all razed how it did lie 

In heaps of stones, and Tyrus put to spoil, 

With walls and towers flat evened with the soil. 

But Troy, alas (me thought) above them all, 435 

It made mine eyes in very tears consume, 

When I beheld the woeful wierd befall, [/a/e] 

That by the wrathful will of gods was come: 

And Jove's unmoved sentence and foredome [jore doom] 

On Priam king, and on his town so bent, 440 

I could not lin, but I must there lament. [cease] 

And that the more, sith Destiny was so stern 

As, force perforce, there might no force avail 

But she must fall : and, by her fall, we learn 

That cities, towers, wealth, world, and all shall quail; [die, 445 

No manhood, might, nor nothing might prevail, pass away] 

All were there prest, full many a prince and peer; [at hand] 

And many a knight that sold his death full dear. 

Not worthy Hector, worthiest of them all, 

Her hope, her joy; his force is now for nought. 450 

O Troy, Troy, Troy, there is no boot but bale; 

The hugy horse within thy walls is brought: 

Thy turrets fall, thy knights that whilom fought 

In arms amid the field, are slain in bed; 

Thy gods defiled, and all thy honour dead. 455 

The flames upspring, and cruelly they creep 
From wall to roof, till all to cinders waste: 
Some fire the houses where the wretches sleep, 


Some rush in here, some run in there as fast; 
In every where or sword or fire they taste. 460 

The walls are torn, the towers whirled to the ground; 
There is no mischief but may there be found. 

Cassandra saw I yet there how they haled 

From Pallas' house with spercled tress undone, [scattered] 

Her wrists fastbound, and with Greeks' rout empaled: 465 

And Priam eke, in vain how he did run 

To arms, when Pyrrhus with despite hath done 

To cruel death, and bathed him in the baigne [bath] 

Of his son's blood, before the altar slain. 

But how can I describe the doleful sight, 470 

That in the shield so lifelike fair did shine! 

Sith in this world, I think was never wight 

Could have set forth the half, nor half so fine. 

I can no more but tell how there is seen 

Fair Ilium fall in burning red gledes down, [glowing frag- 475 

And, from the soil, great Troy, Neptunus' town, ments] 

Herefrom when scarce I could mine eyes withdraw, 

That filled with tears as doth the springing well, 

We passed on so far forth till we saw 

Rude Acheron, a loathsome lake to tell, 480 

That boils and bubs up swelth as black as hell, 1 

Where grisly Charon at their fixed tide 

Still ferries ghosts unto the farther side. 

The aged god no sooner Sorrow spied, 

But hasting straight unto the bank apace, 485 

With hollow call unto the rout he cried, 

To swerve apart and give the goddess place. 

Straight it was done, when to the shore we pace, 

Casts up lumps of putrid matter. 


Where hand in hand as we then linked fast, 

Within the boat we are together plaste. [placed] 490 

And forth we launch full freighted to the brink, 

When, with the unwonted weight, the rusty keel 

Began to crack as if the same should sink. 

We hoist up mast and sail, that in a while 

We fetched the shore, where scarcely we had while 495 

For to arrive, but that we heard anone 

A three-sound bark confounded all in one. 

We had not long forth past, but that we saw 

Black Cerberus, the hideous hound of hell, 

With bristles reared, and with a three-mouthed jaw, 500 

Foredinning the air with his horrible yell. 

Out of the deep dark cave where he did dwell, 

The goddess straight he knew, and by and by, 

He peaste and couched while that we passed by. [became silent] 

Thence came we to the horrour and the hell, 505 

The large great kingdoms and the dreadful reign 

Of Pluto in his throne where he did dwell, 

The wide waste places, and the hugy plain: 

The wailings, shrieks, and sundry sorts of pain, 

The sighs, the sobs, the deep and deadly groan. 510 

Earth, air, and all, resounding plaint and moan. 

Here puled the babes, and here the maids unwed 

With folded hands their sorry chance bewailed; 

Here wept the guiltless slain, and lovers dead, 

That slew themselves when nothing else availed; 515 

A thousand sorts of sorrows here that wailed 

With sighs and tears, sobs, shrieks, and all yfere, [together: 

That (oh, alas!) it was a hell to hear. mixed] 

We stayed us straight, and with a rueful fear 

Beheld this heavy sight, while from mine eyes 520 


The vapored tears downstilled here and there, [distilled] 

And Sorrow eke in far more woeful wise, 

Took on with plaint, upheaving to the skies 

Her wretched hands, that with her cry the rout 

Gan all in heaps to swarm us round about. 525 

"Lo here," said Sorrow, "princes of renown, 

That whilom sat on top of Fortune's wheel 

Now laid full low; like wretches whirled down 

Even with one frown that stayed but with a smile: 

And now behold the thing that thou erewhile 530 

Saw only in thought, and what thou now shalt hear 

Recount the same to Kesar, King, and Peer." 

Then first came Henry, Duke of Buckingham, 
His cloak of black all pilled and quite forworn, [thread- 
Wringing his hands, and Fortune oft doth blame, bare] 535 
Which of a duke hath made him now her scorn, 
With ghastly looks as one in manner lorn 
Oft spread his arms, stretched hands he joins as fast 
With rueful cheer, and vapored eyes upcast. 

His cloak he rent, his manly breast he beat, 540 

His hair all torn about the place it lay, 

My heart so molt to see his grief so great [melted] 

As feelingly, me thought, it dropped away: 

His eyes they whirled about withouten stay, 

With stormy sighs the place did so complain 545 

As if his heart at each had burst in twain. 

Thrice he began to tell his doleful tale. 

And thrice the sighs did swallow up his voice, 

At each of which he shrieked so withal, 

As through the heavens rived with the noise: 550 

Till at the last recovering his voice, 

Supping the tears that all his breast berained, [sopped} 

On cruel Fortune weeping thus he plained. 


g>tr Pjtltp g>thtmj 



(From Astrophel and Stella, before 1582?) 


Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show, 
That she, dear she! might take some pleasure of my pain: 
Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know, 
Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain: 
I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe, 
Studying inventions fine, her wits to entertain: 
Oft turning others leaves, to see if thence would flow 
Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sun-burn'd brain. 

But words came halting forth, wanting invention's stay; 

Invention, nature's child, fled step-dame study's blows; 

And others' feet seem'd but strangers in my way. 

Thus, great with child to speak, and helpless in my throws, 

Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite; 

Fool! said my muse to me, look in thy heart, and write. 

It is most true that eyes are form'd to serve 
The inward light; and, that the heav'nly part 
Ought to be king, from whose rules who do swerve, 
Rebels to Nature, strive for their own smart. 
It is most true, what we call Cupid's dart, 
An image is, which for ourselves we carve; 


And, fools, adore in temple of our heart, 

Till that good god make church and church-men starve. 

True, that true beauty virtue is, indeed, 
Whereof this beauty can be but a shade, 
Which, elements, with mortal mixture breed: 
True, that, on earth, we are but pilgrims made, 
And should, in soul, up to our country move; 
True! and yet true, that I must Stella love. 


Though dusty wits dare scorn Astrology, 
And fools can think those lamps of purest light, 
Whose numbers weigh greatness, eternity, 
Promising wonders, wonder do invite: 
To have, for no cause, birthright in the sky, 
But for to spangle the black weeds of night: 
Or for some brawl, which in that chamber high, 
They should still dance to please a gazer's sight. 

For me, I do nature un-idle know 
And know, great causes great effects procure: 
And know, those bodies high reign on the low. 
And if these rules did fail, proof makes me sure, 
Who oft fore- judge my after-following race, 
By only those two stars in Stella's face. 


Soul's joy, bend not those morning stars from me, 
Where virtue is made strong by beauty's might; 
Where Love is chasteness, pain doth learn delight, 
And humbleness grows on with majesty: 
Whatever may ensue, O let me be 
Copartner of the riches of that sight: 


Let not mine eyes be hell-driv'n from that light: 

look! O shine! O let me die, and see! 

For though I oft myself of them bemoan, 

That through my heart their beamy darts be gone, 

Whose cureless wounds, e'en now, most freshly bleed, 

Yet, since my death-wound is already got, 

Dear killer, spare not thy sweet cruel shot; 

A kind of grace it is to slay with speed. 


1 never drank of Aganippe's well, 
Nor ever did in shade of Tempe sit: 

And Muses scorn with vulgar brains to dwell: 
Poor layman I, for sacred rites unfit. 
Some do I hear of Poet's fury tell, 
But (God wot) wot not what they mean by it: 
And this I swear, by blackest brook of hell, 
I am no pick-purse of another's wit. 

How falls it then, that with so smooth an ease 
My thoughts I speak, and what I speak doth flow 
In verse, and that my verse best wits doth please ? 
Guess we the cause? What, is it thus? Fie, no: 
Or so? Much less: How then? Sure thus it is, 
My lips are sweet, inspir'd with Stella's kiss 


To the tune of Non Credo gia che piu infelice Amante. 


The nightingale as soon as April bringeth, 
Unto her rested sense, a perfect waking, 


What late bare earth, proud of new clothing, springeth, 
Sings out her woes, a thorn her song-book making. 

And mournfully bewailing, 
Her throat in tunes expresseth 
What grief her breast oppresseth, 

For Thereus 1 force on her chaste will prevailing. 

O Philomela fair! O take some gladness, 
That here is juster cause of plaintful sadness: 
Thine earth now springs, mine fadeth; 
Thy thorn without; my thorn my heart invadeth. 

Alas! she hath no other cause of anguish, 
But Thereus' love, on her by strong-hand wroken, [wreaked, 

Wherein she suffering, all her spirits languish, inflicted] 
Full woman-like, complains her will was broken. 

But I, who daily craving, 
Cannot have to content me, 
Have more cause to lament me, 

Since wanting is more woe than too much having. 

O Philomela fair! O take some gladness, 
That here is juster cause of plaintful sadness: 
Thine earth now springs, mine fadeth; 
Thy thorn without; my thorn my heart invadeth. 


Leave me, O Love! which reachest but to dust; 
And thou, my mind, aspire to higher things: 
Grow rich in that which never taketh rust; 


What ever fades, but fading pleasure brings. 
Draw in thy beams, and humble all thy might 
To that sweet yoke, where lasting freedoms be, 
Which breaks the clouds, and opens forth the light, 
That doth both shine, and give us sight to see. 

O take fast hold! let that light be thy guide, 

In this small course, which birth draws out to death, 

And think how ill becometh him to slide, 

Who seeketh heav'n, and comes of heav'nly breath. 

Then farewell, World, thy uttermost I see, 

Eternal Love, maintain thy life in Me! 



B.L. Belles Lettres Series. 

A.S. Albion Series. 

E.E.L. Stopford Brooke's History of Early English Literature. 

E.W. Morley's English Writers. 

E.M.L. English Men of Letters. 

D.N.B. Dictionary of National Biography. 

N.E.D. New English Dictionary. 

E.E.T. Early English Text Society's Publications. 

S.T.S. Scottish Text Society's Publications. 

M.L.A. Modern Language Association's Publications. 

J.G.P. Journal of Germanic Philology. 

M.P. Modern Philology. 

M.L.N. Modern Language Notes. 


Widsith (Weed-seeth) Hygelac (Hidge-e-lahc) 

Deor (Dayor) Caedmon (Kadmon) 

Hrothgar (Hroth-gahr) Cynewulf (Kin-e-wolf) 

Beowulf (Bay-o-wolf) Ermanric (Air-man-reek) 

Heorot (Hay-o-rote) Wudga (Wood-ga) 

Geats (Gay-a-ts) Hama (Hah-ma) 





The study of Germanic antiquities has been unduly neglected 
in our schools and colleges, because of the inaccessibility and 
highly technical character of most of the literature connected 
with the subject. The following brief book-list is confined to 
works accessible in English, and not too technical for the student 
and general reader. It is in no sense a " bibliography," and the 
strict limitation to books in English has compelled the omission 
of even so excellent a little volume as Axel Olrik's Nordisches 
Geistesleben, or such noble essays as Uhland's on the Thor and 
Odin Myth, or so thoroughly readable a book as Golther's 
Germanische Mythologie, all of which deserve to be translated 
into English. The Germans themselves are beginning to 
realize the importance of presenting the results of their scholar- 
ship to a wider public, in books of a more " popular " character, 
written from a literary and educational point of view. The 
little Deutsche Heldensage of Dr. Jiriczek, in the Goeschen 
library (also English in the Temple Primers), is an excellent 
example of this tendency. 

Mythology. J. S. Stallybrass, Teutonic Mythology, trans- 
lated from the 4th ed. of Jacob Grimm's Deutsche Mythologie. 
A standard work of reference. — M. S. Smith, Northern 
Mythology (Temple Primers), translated from the German of 


368 NOTES 

Professor D. F. Kaufmann. The best brief sketch of Ger- 
manic mythology. — Anderson, The Prose Edda. — Vigfusson 
and Powell, Corpus Poeticum Boreale. Gives the poetic Edda, 
in the original, with a prose translation at the foot of the 
page. — The Mythologic Poems of the Edda, edited and translated 
with Introduction and Notes by Olive Bray, Viking Club Series. 

Heroic Legend and Saga. M. B. Smith, Northern Hero 
Legends (Temple Primers), from the German of O. Jiriczek. 

Norse Sagas. The Volsunga Saga, translated by Magnusson 
and Morris (Camelot Series). — The Grettis Saga, by the same. 
— The Njals Saga. (Abridged from the original edition of 
Sir G. W. Dasent, London, Grant Richards, 1900.) — Saxo 
Grammaticus, translated by Oliver Elton. The Danish His- 
tory of Saxo is a mine of legendary lore. 

Germanic Institutions. F. B. Gummere, Germanic Origins. 
The best survey of the subject in English. — Paul Du Chaillu, 
The Viking Age. (Full of valuable quotations and illustrations 
not easily accessible elsewhere, but full also of inaccuracies of 
statement.) Every student of Old English literature should 
be familiar with the Ger mania of Tacitus, at least in translation. 

Histories of Old English Literature. The best general history 
of this period is Bernhard ten Brink's Early English Literature, 
translated by H. M. Kennedy (Henry Holt and Co.). The best 
aesthetic criticism of Old English Literature is found in the books 
of Stopford Brooke, The History of Early English Literature 
and English Literature from the Beginning to the Norman 
Conquest; the first is a detailed study of Old English Poetry ; 
the second is a briefer recast of the first, with added chapters 
on King Alfred and West Saxon prose. Stopford Brooke writes 
with a fine appreciation of the poetic values of Old English 
verse. His translations are spirited, though their diction 
tends to be too archaic, and they often miss the rhythms of 
the original. 

Old English Poetry. The introductions to the volumes of 
the Belles Lettres (D. C. Heath and Co.) and Albion (Ginn and 
Co.) series of Anglo-Saxon poetry contain much of interest 


to the general student of Old English Literature. Professor 
Gummere's Oldest Germanic Epic translates into English 
alliterative verse Widsith, Deor's Lament, The Finsburg 
Fragment, The Waldere Fragments, and the whole of Beowulf: 
the best verse translation of Beowulf, remarkably close to the 
rhythm and language of the original. Cook and Tinker, 
Translations from Old English Poetry. W. M. Hart, Ballad 
and Epic (Vol. XI of Harvard Studies and Notes, Ginn and 
Co., 1907). A valuable study in early literary forms. Thomas 
Arnold, Notes on Beowulf. For other references to Beowulf 
literature, and for a list of Beowulf translations, see the notes 
on Beowulf. 


Anglo-Saxon poetry from its earliest beginnings to the 
Norman Conquest was composed in the ancient alliterative 
measure common to all the people of Germanic stock. Though 
this measure continued to be used in England after the Con- 
quest (see Layamon's -Brut, Sir Gawayne, Piers Ploughman), 
even as late as the sixteenth century, it gradually declined 
during the Middle English period, and was either supplanted 
or fundamentally modified by measures of foreign origin. 
For a brief discussion of Old English metre, see Professor 
Gummere's Handbook of Poetics, Chap. VII (Ginn and Co.), 
and Professor R. M. Alden's English Verse (Henry Holt and 

1. The Four-Stress Alliterative Line. Old English rhythms 
are based on the Germanic law of accentuation, according to 
which the most important words or parts of words were em- 
phasized by a strong stress of the voice. This involved the 
subordination of quantitative accent based on the length of 
syllables, to stress accent based on their significance. When 
such stressed accents or beats of the voice recur at regular 
intervals, we perceive rhythm ; and even though the intervals 
between the individual beats may vary, our sense of rhythm 
will be awakened if we can note a regular recurrence of groups of 

370 NOTES 

beats, in twos or threes or fours. Now the chief characteristic 
of Old English verse is that its words were so arranged that 
there was a constant recurrence of two pairs of heavy beats, 
and that the most important of these heavy beats began with 
the same sound (alliteration). This gives us as the unit of 
Old English verse a line of four beats, divided into two halves 
by a pause, but linked together by alliteration. 

Hyge sceal be heardra, heorte be cenre ; 
Mod sceal be mara, be ure maegen lytlab. 

— Battle of Maldon. 

(Heart must be keener, courage the hardier ; 
Bolder our mood, as our band diminisheth.) 

2. Alliteration. When words or syllables begin with the 
same sound, they are said to alliterate. Alliteration is still 
used in English verse, but it is largely ornamental and casual, 
as e.g. in Shelley's Cloud : 

That orbed maiden, with white fire laden 

Whom mortals call the moon 
Glides glimmering o'er my fleece-like floor 

By the midnight breezes strewn. 

In Old English poetry, on the other hand, alliteration was 
structural and regular. As it was much older than writing, 
it was and is concerned with sounds, not letters. King and 
cook keep good company in alliteration, though they begin 
with different letters. King and knight do not, though they 
begin with the same letter. 1 Furthermore, as alliteration was 
addressed to the ear and not to the eye, it always fell on 
stressed syllables. Thus forsaken and feeble do not alliterate, 
even though they begin with the same sounds ; while forsake 
and beseech do alliterate, though they begin with different 
sounds. In the latter case for and be are merely prefixes, 
and stress and alliteration alike fall on the significant syllables. 

1 In Old and Middle English when the k of knight was still pronounced, they of 
course alliterated. 


As in the great majority of Old English words the first syllable 
was the significant syllable, both stress and alliteration gener- 
ally fall on first syllables. Take these lines : 

The folk of the fen in former days (p. 13, 1. 10) 
Named him Grendel : unknown his father, 
Or what his descent from demons obscure. 

In " named " and " unknown," the alliteration, though not 
apparent, is real. In " descent " and " demons," on the other 
hand, the alliteration, though apparent, is not real, because the 
alliteration does not fall on the stressed syllable in " descent." 
As the function of alliteration in Germanic verse is to link 
together the two halves of the four-stress line, the first stressed 
syllable of the second half-verse must always be a member of 
the alliterative group. We may therefore call this syllable 
the alliterative dominant. In the majority of cases both stressed 
syllables of the first half-verse alliterate with the dominant. 
When only one of them alliterates, it is preferably the first, 
but it may be the second. Examples of the three resulting 
types of alliteration in the order of their frequency follow : 

1:2:3: Gewat J?a ofer waegholm winde gefysed 

Flota famigheals, fugle gelicost. {Beowulf, 1. 217.) 

(Went then o'er the wave-sea, by the wind favored 
The floater foamy-necked, to a fowl likest.) 

1 : 3 : On flodes aeht feor gewitan (1. 42). 
(In the flood's power far to wander.) 

2:3: Geseah he in recede rinca manige (1. 729). 

(Saw he in the wine-hall of warriors a many.) 

The fourth stress never alliterates with the third, or dominant 
in Old English verse of the classic period, but it may alliterate 
with the second and rarely with the first, when these are not 
in alliteration with the dominant. This gives us two additional 
types of alliteration. 
1:3:2:4 (alternating alliteration) : 

Hilde-waepnum and hea>o-wa6dum (1. 39). 
(With brave weapons and battle- weeds.) 

372 NOTES 

1:4:2:3: Wit baet gecwaedon cniht-wesende (1. 535). 
(We that boasted when boys we were.) 

All vowels alliterate : 

Isig and utfus se>elinges faer (1. 7,7,). 
(Icy and outbound, etheling's barge.) 

Innan and utan irenbendum (1. 775). 
(Inside and outside with iron bands.) 

3. The Pause or Caesura. The Old English alliterative line is 
regularly divided into two half-verses by a pause between the 
second and third stress. This ccesura is sometimes merely 
rhythmic, sometimes it is a sense pause. Compare these two 
lines : 

Ofer hronrade hyran scolde, (1. 10) 
Gomban gyldan : J>aet waes god cyning ! 

or these : 

Willing comrades may crowd around him (p. 6, 1. 23) 
Eager and true. In every tribe, etc. 

Though the caesura always comes between the second and 
third stress, it does not always come in the middle of the line, 
as the half-verses may be of unequal length. Compare : 

Grette Geata leod,| Igode bancode 

Wisfaest wordum,! |baes J?e hire se willa gelamp (1. 625). 

Monotony is avoided by this inequality in the length of half- 
verses (see next section, unstressed syllables), and by run-on lines, 
where the meaning " runs on " from the end of one line into the 
next (enjambment). Compare 

Egsode eorl, syM>an aerest wear}? 
Feasceaft funden; he >aes frofre gebad (6). 


Then climbed aboard (p. 7, 1. 7) 
The chosen troop ; the tide was churning 
Sea against sand ; they stowed away 
In the hold of the ship their shining armor, etc. 


In spite of such devices, the fixed caesura is responsible for a 
certain monotony in the movement of Old English epic verse, 
in striking contrast to the rich modulations of Greek epic verse 
or the epic verse of Milton and Tennyson, with its free treat- 
ment of the caesura. 

4. Unstressed Syllables. While the number of stressed 
syllables in Old English verse is constant, the number of un- 
stressed syllables varies freely. Compare the following lines : 

God mid Geatum, Grendles daeda (1. 195). 
Gewat ba ofer waegholm winde gefysed (1. 217). 
Gewat him ba to warobe wicge ridan (1. 234). 
Se be his wordes geweald wide haefde (1. 79). 
Manna aengum, bara be hit mid mundum bewand 
(1. 1462). 

Unstressed syllables are added most freely at the beginning of 
the second half-verse. The varieties of half-verses have been 
reduced by Professor Sievers to five fundamental types, but 
a discussion of them is beyond the scope of this note. (For a 
brief statement of Sievers' types see Alden, p. 152.) The most 
important result of the Old English freedom with regard to 
unaccented syllables is variation in the rapidity of the verse, or 

Gewat ba ofer w^gholm, winde gefysed 

is a rapid line, and admirably suggests the buoyant movement 
of the boat. 

Gomban gyldan : bast waes god cyning 
(Gave him gold, 'twas a good king) 

is a slow line, and suggests weight and dignity. The impor- 
tance of the proportion of stressed to unstressed syllables in the 
tempo of verse-rhythm may be illustrated by a comparison 
between Old English and blank verse. Blank verse belongs 
to the " syllable-counting " variety of English verse, i.e. there 
are normally ten syllables in every line, five unaccented syl- 
lables alternating with five accented. This is the metrical 
scheme of the iambic pentameter. (We need not here touch 
on the moot question of the relation of quantity to stress. 

374 NOTES 

While the length of syllables is by no means a negligible fac- 
tor, either in old or modern English verse, the fact remains that 
English rhythms, old or modern, are based on the Germanic 
stress accent, to which quantity has been made subordinate.) 
The following line from Paradise Lost is a " normal " iambic pen- 
tameter so far as number of syllables and accents are concerned : 
And swims or sinks or wades or creeps or flies. 

(It has however an abnormal number of pauses.) If we subject 
a number of consecutive lines of Paradise Lost to the test of 
reading aloud, we shall note that Milton not only constantly 
departs from the scheme of regular alternation of unaccented 
with accented syllables, but that even the number of main 
stresses in each line varies considerably. Thus in the first 
sixteen lines of Paradise Lost, there are ten lines with four 
main stresses, two with three, and only four lines with the 
" normal " number of five. Moreover, the line 

O'er bog, o'er steep, through strait, rough, dense, or rare 
has six accents ; and the line 

For Hot, Cold, Moist, and Dry, four champions fierce 
has even seven. In all these lines the number of syllables 
remains practically constant. Now, when the number of 
main stresses is reduced, the tempo of the line is accelerated ; 
when the number of accents is increased the tempo of the line 
is retarded. 

In the beginning how the heavens and earth 

O'er bog, o'er steep, through strait, rough, dense, or rare. 

In iambic pentameter, therefore, the tempo is modified by 
varying the number of main stresses, while the number of 
syllables remains constant. In Old English verse, on the other 
hand, the tempo is modified by varying the number of syllables, 
while the main stresses remain constant. Fundamentally differ- 
ent as is the rhythm of blank verse from that of the Old Eng- 


lish alliterative line, it is interesting to note that owing to this 
variability of tempo, individual lines with identical rhythm 
may be found : 

Rose out of Chaos : or if Sion hill {Paradise Lost). 

Hynlni and hrafyl. Ic J?aes Hrothgar maeg {Beowulf). 

Strongly to suffer and support our pains {Paradise Lost). 

Swaese gesi^as, swa he selfa bad {Beowulf, 29). 
5. Rising and Falling Rhythms. The rhythm of Old English 
verse is predominatingly falling, i.e. the rhythmic units are 
composed of stressed followed by unstressed syllables : 

Giibmod grummon, guman onetton 
is a typical line. Examples of falling rhythms in modern 
English are 

Tell me not in mournful numbers {trochaic) 

Solemnly, mournfully, dealing its dole {dactylic). 

Of rising rhythms 

To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield {iambic) 

I saw from the beach when the morning was shining 

A bark o'er the waters move gloriously on {anapaestic). 

The reason for the prevalence of falling rhythms (" dactylic " 
and " trochaic ") is inherent in the structure of Old English, 
which was rich in light formative syllables, added to the root. 
In modern English these formative syllables have dropped 
off, often being replaced by particles preceding the root. In 
every such case a naturally falling rhythm has been changed 
into a naturally rising rhythm. Cf. Old English singan 
(falling), with to sing (rising) ; Godes lufu with the love of 
God; Welandes geweorc with the work of Wdyland. Accord- 
ingly, rising rhythm (iambic, anapaestic) seems to be more 
natural to the genius of modern English than to that of Old 
English, whose falling rhythms fit it so well for describing the 
crash of combat, and the blows of sword and battle-axe, 
falling on helmet and shield. 

376 NOTES 

6. Coincidence of Rhythmic and Emphatic Stress. One of 

the most important differences between Old English epic verse 
and modern English epic verse, as found, e.g., in Milton and 
Tennyson, remains to be stated. In Old English verse there 
is never any conflict between rhythmic and emphatic stress, 
i.e. between the stress required by the metric scheme and the 
stress required by the meaning of the line. In reading Old 
English verse, if the words important to the sense are strongly 
emphasized, and the unimportant words are hurried over, the 
rhythm will invariably be brought out. On the other hand, 
if the opening passage of Paradise Lost is accented according 
to the sense alone, something very like prose will result. While 
if we accent according to the metric scheme alone, and with- 
out any regard to the sense, something very like sing-song will 
result. The music of Milton's blank verse, and of all great 
English blank verse, is due to the free interplay and balanced 
conflict between sense and rhythm. You must read with the 
rhythm in your ear, and the sense in your mind. There is 
consequently a double focus for the attention, a rhythmic and a 
logical. In Old English poetry rhythmic and logical focus 
coincide. The rhythmic structure of Old English verse may 
be compared to the old Germanic hall, whose four solid corner 
posts squarely support the burden of the roof. While Eng- 
lish blank verse may be compared to a Gothic cathedral, 
whose groined ceiling seems to hover overhead upheld by the 
interplay of complicated thrusts taken up by arch and but- 
tress and clustered column. 


Any attempt to reproduce exactly and accurately the Old 
English alliterative line must necessarily fail, first because the 
language has changed, and second because our ear has changed 
with it. The " gait " of English verse has become smoother 
and more regular ; and the rider accustomed to the paces of a 
well broken saddle-horse is apt to be unseated by the gait of 


a Pegasus that " bucks." It is especially the second half- 
verses with their initial rush of unaccented syllables that are 
trying to the modern ear. In a line like the following : 
Manna amgum J>ara \>e hit mid mundum bewand, 

where the second half-verse starts with a mad career of un- 
stressed syllables and then brings up suddenly on two heavy 
stresses, the incautious rider is apt to " come a cropper " at 
the close. 

Again, the juxtaposition of stressed syllables is much more 
common in Old English than in modern English verse, and 
offers another difficulty to the modern ear. Cf. such a line as 

Ongan ceallian J?a, ofer ceald water. 
(Began calling then o'er the cold water). 

The only way to get accurately the movement of Old English 
verse is to learn to read it in Old English. But it is not im- 
possible to reproduce for a wider circle of readers the spirit of 
the old rhythm, by preserving its essential features in a form 
adapted to the requirements of modern English speech. These 
essential features, which any translation professing to repro- 
duce the old alliterative line must preserve, are the following : 

1. The Four-stress Line. 

Glory great was given to Beowulf. 

2. The Medial Caesura. 

Done were his days ; the Danes were glad. 

Unless a passage like the following clearly strikes the ear as 
exceptional, the translation fails to reproduce one of the most 
important features of Old English metre : 

Spray-frosted trees o'erspread it, and hang 

O'er the water, with roots hard-wedged in the rocks. 

3. The Alliterative Scheme, based on the first stressed syl- 
lable of the second half-verse, the " alliterative dominant." 
Nearly all the verses in our translation will be found to conform 
to one of the five alliterative types given above. In the few 
instances where there is no alliteration, or where two stresses 

378 NOTES 

in the second half- verse alliterate (see especially the lyrics), 
metrical considerations have been waived in the interest of 
poetry. The proportion of 1:2:3 alliterations, however, is 
much less, and of alternating alliterations 1:3: 2:4, and 1:4: 
2 : 3 is much greater than in Old English. 

4. The Prevalence of Falling Rhythm. The preponderance 
of falling rhythms, with their heavy stresses on the beginnings 
of words or word groups, must be maintained at all hazards. 
Though it is undoubtedly true that the prevalent " natural " 
rhythm, for narrative verse at any rate, in Modern English 
has become rising (iambic), it is too much to say with Swin- 
burne that " dactylic forms of verse are unnatural and abhor- 
rent to the English language," unless we use the word dactylic 
strictly in the classic sense as a quantitative foot. On the other 
hand, the loss of inflectional syllables, which has changed hun- 
dreds of dissyllabic words (singan, sing; Godes, God's or of God; 
scipu: ships, etc.) into monosyllables, seriously affects the 
proportion of masculine to feminine endings of half-verses, 
upon which so much of the total effect of the verse-rhythm 
depends. In the first 100 lines of Beowulf, 81 of the first half- 
verses, and 71 of the second half-verses have feminine endings, 
i.e. end with an unstressed syllable. If we compare the first 
selection in our translation, we find that in 52 lines 43 first 
half- verses and 37 second half- verses have feminine endings 
in the original, while only 17 first half-verses, and 25 second 
half-verses have feminine endings in the translation. 

5. Variation of Speed or Tempo, due to irregular number of 
unstressed syllables. Modern English does not permit the 
same freedom as Old English in the use of unstressed syllables, 
especially at the beginning of the half- verses (anakrusis). 
But the translator must avoid going to the other extreme of 
awaking the sense for the regular tempo of iambic or trochaic 
four-stress rhythm (octosyllabic verse). A succession of lines 
such as this : 

Of little use that life he deemed (p. n, 1. 84) 
or : 


Do thy best now, dearest Beowulf (p. 25, 1. 140) 
Shield thy life and show thy valor 

would utterly fail to reproduce the variety of movement, and 
the often breathless haste of Old English verse, though repro- 
ducing faithfully enough the four beats, the medial csesura, 
and the alliteration on the significant syllables. On the other 
hand, an even dactylic or anapaestic movement, the " tum- 
bling measure " of later verse, would be too light and rapid. 
Compare e.g. the tempo of Piers Ploughman with that of the 
Beowulf selections. The elimination of many of the " hyper- 
metric " syllables of the anakrusis, and their more even dis- 
tribution between stresses, together with the unavoidable 
neglect of the quantity of stressed syllables in Old English, 
has probably given to our translation a somewhat lighter and 
more rapid movement, in its total effect, than the hammer-blow 
style of the Old English verse. 

6. Coincidence of Rhythmic and Emphatic Stress. This is 
one of the most essential features to be preserved. Signifi- 
cant words must receive the rhythmic stress. No words of 
minor significance (particles, prepositions, etc.) must require 
the rhythmic stress. 

I stand by thee to the end (p. 25, 1. 144). 

This lin'e breaks the rule by the emphasis it places on by and 
to. The irregularity here is intentional, and was introduced 
for a certain dramatic effect, which the Old English poet could 
obtain by other means. 

Though we are accustomed to think and write of the Ger- 
manic alliterative measure as obsolete, or having only an anti- 
quarian and philological interest, it would be easy to show that 
English poetry, especially blank verse, from Marlowe's 

" Black is the beauty of the brightest day " 
to Arnold's 

" Mixed with the murmur of the moving Nile " 

is thick-sprinkled with lines that remember the movement, still 

380 NOTES 

stirring in our pulses, of our ancestral four-stress alliterative 
measure. 1 


The two charms translated in the text are remnants of a 
kind of incantation whose origins must be looked for in the 
pagan past of the Germanic races. They are echoes of the 
solemn chant that anciently accompanied religious proces- 
sions, and properly represent the earliest and most primitive 
strata of Old English poetry. In the form in which they have 
been handed down they are much overlaid with Christian 
lore, but it is not difficult to recognize the primitive mythologic 
strata. The Christian church made no attempt ruthlessly to 
eradicate all ancient beliefs and practices. Pope Gregory 
advised the English Christians to consecrate the places of 
pagan ritual to the new religion, but not to destroy them ; 
to respect the ancient forest sanctuaries and sacrifices, and to 
proceed everywhere with restraint and moderation. This 
explains the strange medley of Christian and Pagan concep- 
tions so common in Old English literature. 

Cockayne's Leechdoms, W ortcunning and Starcraft of Early 
England (London, 1866) contains an interesting collection of 
charms, spells, cures, etc. On the subject of Germanic.charms 
consult Gummere's Germanic Origins (Scribner's, 1891), pp. 
372 ff. and 405 fL, where both of our charms are translated in 
full, and commented on. 

The Ploughman's Charm 

1. Erce Erce. An unexplained term, probably the name of 
an ancient Earth-goddess. We are reminded of a famous 
passage in the Germania of Tacitus (cap. 40) where he describes 
the cult of the Earth-goddess Nerthus, as practised by the 
Ingvaeonic races of the North Sea coast. "All of these people 

x The expanded long line (" Schwell-vers " ) and the remnants of stanzaic 
structure in O.E. verse are touched on in the proper place in the notes. 


(among them ' Anglii ') worship Nerthus, i.e. mother earth. 
They believe that she intervenes in human affairs, and visits 
the people." [in commune Nerthum, id est terram matrem 
colunt, eamque intervenire rebus hominum, et inveni populis 
arbitrantur.] Like the Norse Freyja, she fs a kind of Ger- 
manic Demeter (Koegel), a goddess of earth and mother of 
vegetation. In the springtime she holds her progress, and is 
welcomed everywhere with eager joy, for in the tracks of her 
chariot drawn by cows, ancient symbols of fertility, rich harvests 
spring up. When she has blessed meadow and field, she returns 
to her underworld home beneath the surface of a lonely mere. 

2 — 17. Hail to thee, Earth, mother of men. According 
to Tacitus, the Germanic peoples believed mankind to be de- 
scended from Tuisto, whose mother was the earth. In Chau- 
cer's Pardoner's Tale (see p. 217), the old man knocks with his 
staff on the ground, " which is my moodres gate " and says 
" Leeve mooder, leet me in," and it is quite possible that in the 
poetic figure there lurks a reminiscence of the old pagan notion 
of the earth mother of men. The next lines in the charm are 
pure pagan, and reveal the same conception that underlies the 
myth of Freyr and Gertha in the Icelandic Skirnismal. Freyr 
the Son of Njord (another form of the root found in Nerthus) 
is the god of the fertilizing rain i and then of fertility in general. 
He rides on the ship Skidbladnir (the cloud), which he can fold 
and slip into his pocket when his journey is done. His flash- 
ing sword is the sunshine, that comes after the rain to make the 
world green. His sword he gives to his servant Skirnir (the 
polisher, burnisher, cleanser), who is to woo for him the beau- 
tiful giants' daughter Gerd (the plant-world, released by the 
sunshine from the fetters of the wintry frost-giants). ' In the 
last lines the Christian coloring again predominates. 

Charm for a Sudden Stitch 

The rheumatism to be cured is thought to be caused by the 
darts of the " mighty women " that ride through the air. 

382 NOTES 

" Hexenschuss " (Hagshot), and " Hexenstich " (Hagstitch), 
are still popular names in Germany for rheumatism. It is 
possible that there is in this charm a faint reminiscence of the 
northern myth of the Valkyrias, the shield-maidens of Odin, 
who bring to Valhalla (hall of the slain), the heroes that fall 
in the battle. 

In one of the Eddie songs we read of a band of Valkyrias 
riding through the air and led by a maiden with a gleaming 
gold helmet. " Their chargers tossed their heads ; from their 
manes the dew dropped into the deep valleys." In an Old 
High German charm for the release of prisoners, three bands 
of " august women " are described settling down upon earth, 
and helping the warriors against the foe. With the introduc- 
tion of Christianity, the " august women " and the shield- 
maidens of Odin degenerated into hags and witches who send 
their darts into the vitals of unwary mortals. 

" The hag is astride 
This night for to ride 
The devil and she together 
Through thick and through thin 
Now out and now in 
Though ne'er so foul be the weather." — Herrick. 

(See the whole poem in Standard English Poems, p. 112.) 

3. — 26. Shot of Esa, i.e. of the gods. "Esa" is gen. pi. 
The nom. pi. would be Ese. The sing. "Os" is preserved in 
proper names, Oswald, Oscar, etc. In Old German the root 
appeared as " ans," preserved in Anselm (Ans-helm). The 
Norse pi. is /Esir. In the Eddas the Esir are specialized into 
war-sprites, while the spirits of nature kindly to man, like 
Njord and Freyr, are called " Vanir." — 27. Shot of Elves. 
In the Eddas " Esir ok alfar," i.e. gods and elves, are often 
mentioned together. The sing., /Elf, is preserved in Alfred, 
i.e. the Elf-counselled, the Elf-wise, and in Alberich, i.e. the 
ruler of Elves. Originally friendly beings, they have become 
malicious sprites in our charm, together with the ^Esir. In 
Scotland flint arrow-heads, relics of an earlier age, are called 


elf-arrows or elf-bolts, and they are supposed to be hurled 
not only at human beings, but especially at cattle. 

" There every herd by sad experience knows 
How winged with fate their elf-shot arrows fly." 

— Collins, Ode on Highland Superstitions. 

34. Witch fly away. In old German, witches are called wood- 
wives, and were supposed to inhabit the wild forest. We must 
not lay too much stress on the echoes of the Valkyria myth 
in our charm. Even before the introduction of Christianity, 
Germanic folklore had its wicked women and wood- wives, who 
had nothing to do with the shield-maidens of Norse mythol- 
ogy. The Norse had their " svart-alfar," black or wicked 
elves, as well as their " ljos-alfar," light or good elves. " The 
heathen Teuton saw all round him a varied race of demons 
(especially wood-sprites such as O.H.G. haga-zussa, O.E. 
haegtes, i.e. German hexe, witch, and Goth, haljaruna, O.H.G. 
heller una, O.E. hellerune) in their several haunts, against 
whose malignant power his only resource was zealous devotion 
to witchcraft." — Kaufmann, Northern Mythology, Temple 
Primers, p. 18. 

In the Havamal, one of the Eddie poems, there is an inter- 
esting allusion to just such a " spell " as is preserved in our 
charm. The poet says : 

" A spell I can work when witch-women ride 
Speeding swift through the air. 
My runes are strong. I can stop their flight 
Hurry them naked home 
Home with bewildered wits." 

Other charms he claims to know which have the power of 
releasing foot from fetter, hand from haft, and of checking an 
arrow in full flight. 

384 NOTES 



As the Charms preserve remnants of ancient mythical con- 
ceptions and pagan cult, so the poem of Widsitfi, preserves 
the memory of heroes sung in the earliest epic lays of the 
Germanic peoples. Around the names of the leaders of Goths 
and Vandals, Lombards, Franks, Burgundians, and Huns, who 
collided with each other and with the waning power of Roma 
from the fourth to the sixth centuries, the great cycles of 
Germanic Epic tradition arose. The earliest home of this 
tradition was the hall of the king, where among heroes and 
nobles the gleeman chanted his lay. It was not a poetry of 
the people in the true sense, but a poetry of the fighting class, 
for the fighting class, and by the fighting class. The form of 
the epic lay, in continuous verse chanted or recited to the 
accompaniment of the harp, as distinguished from earlier 
choric songs in strophic form mentioned by Tacitus, seems to 
have been first developed among the Goths, and to have 
spread from them to the Franks and other West- Germanic 
tribes. Cassiodorus, a historian of the sixth century, tells 
how Chlodwig, the founder of the Frankish kingdom, asked 
Theodoric the Ostrogoth to send him a gleeman practised 
in the art of chanting lays to the accompaniment of the harp, 
and the Old English Widsith is a striking testimony to the large 
contribution made by the vanished Goths to Old Germanic 

The Epic Lay, at first a recital of actual occurrence, became 
in time overlaid with legendary and mythical material. Names 
and events were confused ; where memory failed, imagina- 
tion supplied color and detail, until often there was little left 
that was historic but the names of the heroes themselves 
looming dim through the centuries. Out of such historic and 
legendary lays of the great halls, poets of a later generation 
wove long and stately epics, to be read and recited, but no 
longer sung as of old. The Byzantine historian Priscus gives 


an interesting picture of a Germanic hall of the fifth century, 
and of the gleeman's song. Sent as an emissary to the hall of 
Attila, whose court was patterned after the Germanic fashion, 
Priscus describes how he and his companions, before entering, 
were offered the drinking cup and uttered the ancient Ger- 
manic greeting " waes hael " (wassail). Then they passed 
to the seats ranged along opposite sides of the hall. In the 
centre raised above the others was Attila's seat, and on his 
right was the seat of honor. The guests were greeted in order 
by the king, who drank the health of each, and was greeted 
standing by each in return. When evening came, torches were 
lighted, and two gleemen standing opposite to Attila, recited 
lays in which they praised his victories and his prowess in war. 
" All the guests gazed upon the gleemen ; some were pleased 
by their lays, others were reminded of their own battles and 
were filled with enthusiasm, but some wept, the strength of 
whose bodies had been sapped by time and whose fiery spirits 
age had subdued." 

The poem of Widsith owes its preservation to the fact that 
it was copied into the Exeter Book, an important Ms. collec- 
tion of Old English poems given by Archbishop Leofric to the 
cathedral library at Exeter about 1050, and still preserved 
there. Widsith comprises 143 lines. Our selection gives 
iii-iiq, 88-1 1 1, 127-143. Widsith is the name of a typical 
and imaginary gleeman or minstrel, who has visited many 
lands and sung in the halls of many kings. (Old English 
wld, far, wide ; sitk, journey.) In Old English the singer was 
called " scop," from Old English scieppan, to shape, to create 
(cf. derivation of poeta). The catalogue of tribes and rulers 
that forms the core of the poem points to the period before 
the English left their continental homes on the Elbe and 
Weser. It is customary to refer to these lists as having merely 
an antiquarian value. But in the days when Attila, Ermana- 
ric,- Theodoric, Offa, Hrothgar, Gunther, Wudga, Hama, and 
the rest of them were heroes of well-known lays, the mere 
mention of their names must have had an imaginative and 

386 NOTES 

emotional value entirely lost to us. " Bare lists of words," 
says Emerson, " are found suggestive to an imaginative and 
excited mind." These memories of the heroes of Germanic 
Epic preserved in a long tradition of oral lays, running back 
to continental times, and variously modified in transit, were 
finally written down by a monkish scribe who could not resist 
the temptation of extending the itinerary of Widsith by includ- 
ing the Israelites and the Assyrians, the Medes and the Per- 
sians, the Saracens, and the Moabites, and sundry other 
impossible bookish tribes and countries. In spite of these 
incongruities and interpolations, Widsith remains one of the 
most interesting records, as it certainly is the oldest, in the 
literature of the Old English, dealing with the Epic memories 
common to all the Germanic races. Cf. Professor Gummere's 
Oldest English Epic, where the whole of Widsith is translated 
and commented on. For a recent discussion of the philologi- 
cal and archaeological problems involved, see article by Dr. 
W. W. Lawrence in Modern Philology, 1906, Vol. IV, p. 329. 

3. — 1-9. The first nine lines form an introduction written 
in England, probably in the eighth or ninth century, and 
consequently much more recent than the core of the poem, 
which antedates the Anglo-Saxon settlement. " Widsith," 
the far-wanderer, is described as belonging to the Myrgings, a 
Low- German tribe dwelling near the mouth of the Elbe, the 
old home of the Angles. He undertakes a journey to the court 
of the Ostro-Gothic King Ermanric, in the company of his 
queen Alhild. The object of this journey seems to have been 
the marriage of Alhild to Ermanric ; hence she is called weaver- 
of-peace. She leaves her home to become the bride of the 
Ostrogoth, just as in the Nibelungenlied, Kriemhild leaves her 
brothers to marry Attila the Hun. Ermanric, king of the 
Ostrogoths, is a historic figure. He died by his own hand in 
375 a.d., on account of the destruction of his kingdom by the 
Huns. In early Gothic tradition he was remembered as a 
great and famous king, whose tragic death, so unlike that of the 
typical Germanic hero, made a profound impression on his 


people, and naturally lent itself to the transforming touch of 
the imagination. Jordanes, a Gothic historian writing nearly 
two hundred years after the death of Ermanric, still calls him 
the noblest of the Amalungs. In later West- Germanic and 
Norse epic tradition his character was entirely changed, and 
he became a type of the tyrant and traitor, cruel and faithless. 
According to Deor's Complaint, he had a wolfish heart, and the 
writer of the Widsith prologue calls him ruthless traitor and 
treaty-breaker. This later tradition represents him as having 
killed his own son, and having his innocent wife Swanhild 
torn to pieces by wild horses. For the story of him see North- 
ern Hero Legends, pp. 29 ff. (Translated from the German of 
Jirizcek by M. B. Smith in the Temple Primers series, Dent 
and Co.) 

4. — 10. I was with Ermanric, etc. Lines 9-87, omitted 
in the translation, comprise lists of tribes and rulers supposed 
to have been visited by Widsith. Line 88 returns to the sub- 
ject of Ermanric, and this makes so close a connection with the 
prologue that one wonders whether the intervening portions 
were not interpolated. Dr. Lawrence, in his exhaustive study 
of the structure and interpretation of Widsith, says : " This 
is perhaps the most important division of the poem." It is 
noticeable that the character which Widsith himself gives to 
Ermanric differs from that ascribed to him by later tradition, 
for the " ruthless traitor " of the prologue is here pictured as a 
noble and generous king. This in itself is an evidence that 
the core of the poem is older than the prologue. — n. Gave 
me a ring. One of the commonest kennings or descriptive 
epithets applied to the king in Old English poetry is ring-giver, 
bracelet bestower. Professor Gummere notes that the heavy 
gold ring is marked with its value, and that spirals of gold 
twisted about the arm were broken off by the king, each round 
having a definite value. Hence the king is also called the ring- 
breaker. — 19. Edwin's Daughter. Edwin, a Langobard or 
Lombard king, known to history as Audoin. The original home 
of the Lombards was on the Elbe, near the Angles or Myrgings. 

388 NOTES 

Edwin's son, Alboin, invaded Italy in 568. In a passage omitted 
in the translation, Widsith says, "I was with Ealfwine [Old 
English for Alboin] in Italy." Paul the Deacon, a Lombard 
historian, tells how Alboin forced his wife, Rosamond, to drink 
from a cup made from the skull of her own father, whom he had 
killed. (See Swinburne's tragedy, Rosamund, Queen of the Lom- 
bards.) Historically it is of course impossible that Alhild, 
Edwin's daughter, hence sister of Ealfwine or Alboin, who 
invaded Italy in the sixth century, should have been a contem- 
porary of Ermanric, who died in the fourth, and that Widsith, 
who says he was with Alboin in Italy, should have been with 
Ermanric " all that while " ; but Epic tradition has no sense of 
historic perspective. The heroes of the past are contemporary 
in the great Epic cycles, — they are seen on the same plane, 
just as the distant mountain ranges, fold on fold, merge into 
one sky-line for the eye. So in the Nibelungenlied, The- 
odoric, the great Ostrogoth, is present at the court of Attila 
the Hun, who died two years before Theodoric was born. — 
3 5 . Wudga and Hama. According to Jordanes, Widigoia (Old 
English Wudga, Widga) was a Gothic hero who fell in the wars 
against the Sarmatians before the time of Ermanric. There 
were lays about him, and he was soon drawn into the cycle of 
Ermanric's heroes, and together with Hama became champion 
of the Gothic king in his wars against the Huns. The battle 
near Wistlawudu, i.e. Vistulawood, here alluded to (the place 
is mentioned in 1. 121 of the original), seems to be a reminiscence 
of the ancient homes of the Goths on the Vistula, before they 
wandered south to the Danube. If this be so, it is the most 
ancient historic reminiscence in Germanic Epic. Hama is the 
Heime of Middle High German Epic. He is mentioned in 
Beowulf as the captor of a famous necklace, " Brisingamene." 
As champions of Ermanric, this pair underwent the same pro- 
cess of moral deterioration as their leader, and in later tradi- 
tion become the types of brave but cruel and ruthless slayers. 
In this capacity they figure in the fine Middle High German 
poem of Arphart's Death. (See Northern Hero Legends, p. 122.) 


5. — 42. Thus fated to wander. The poem closes on the 
minor chord that rings through so much of Old English poetry. 
So Beowulf says : 

" To each of us here the end must come 
Of life upon earth : let him who may 
Win glory ere death. I deem that best, 
The lot of the brave, when life is over." 

" Vitae summa brevis spem nos vetat inchoare longam " 
But the Germanic conclusion is not Horace's or Omar's " Let 
us drink and be merry, for to-morrow we die," but rather 
" Let us fight and win fame, for to-morrow we fall." See also 
the closing lines of the Battle of Maldon (p. 93), and the fine 
stanza in the Norse Lay of Hamthir : 

" We have fought a brave fight, on fallen Goths we stand ; 
Like eagles on treetops high, on the heap of the slain we perch. 
Glory great is ours, whether we die to-day or to-morrow, 
For none shall live till evening, when the Norns have spoken 
the word." 

It is the same note that Tennyson strikes in the Ballad of the 
Revenge; and the brave speech of Sir Richard Grenville seems 
to echo the very words of the old Germanic hero : 

" We have fought such a fight, for a day and a night 
As may never be fought again. 
We have won great glory, my men, 
And a day less or more 
At sea or ashore, 
We die, — does it matter when? 7 ' 


Among Old English poems whose subject-matter belongs 
to the old heathen time, by far the most important is Beowulf. 
There were similar hero-poems in vogue, not only among the 
Old English, but also among their kinsfolk, the Goths, the 
Franks, and the Northmen ; but with the exception of a few 
fragments, all of these have been lost or transformed by the 
spirit of a later age ; so that the poem of Beowulf, belonging 

390 NOTES 

to England, as it does, has a still wider interest as being the 
earliest, and the only complete epic of the heroic age of the 
Teutons, preserved in the ancient alliterated verse form. 
Date. — Beowulf is preserved in a single Ms. now kept in the 
British Museum. It is written in the dialect spoken in Wessex 
in the eleventh century. This West Saxon version is possibly 
directly due to the interest which King Alfred (f 901) took 
in the older poetry of his people, as a result of which copies 
were made in his time and after, of poems written in the North 
of England in the seventh and eighth centuries. The original 
Ms. was probably written in Northumbria toward the end of 
the seventh century, after the introduction of Christianity in 
the north (637), and before the Danish invasions put an end 
to Northumbrian culture (eighth century). Authorship. — 
No author is known ; we cannot even apply the word " author " 
in the modern sense, — in the sense in which we speak of 
Milton as the author of Paradise Lost. There are numerous 
theories of authorship. These may be divided into two classes. 
(1) The ballad theory, which conceives the poem to be the result 
of piecing together various lays or early ballads sung by min- 
strels in the hall. According to this theory, the making of the 
Epic out of earlier lays was a more or less mechanical busi- 
ness, and the scholars who have developed it have emphasized 
the inconsistencies and incongruities of style and structure 
with much ingenuity in the interest of their theory. Some of 
the greatest Beowulf scholars, like Muellenhoff and Ten Brink, 
have held this theory, and at one time it had wide acceptance. 
For a survey of the ballad theory of Beowulf see J. E. Routh, 
Jr., Two Studies on the Ballad Theory of the Beowtdf, Johns 
Hopkins dissertation, 1905. (2) The theory of a single poet. — 
Those who hold, that Beowulf is the work of a single poet do 
not deny that the poem is based on oral lays sung in the hall 
to the accompaniment of the harp, but they insist that the 
Epic poet did more than piece these lays together. He took 
the theme of the lays, and much of their old traditional phras- 
ing, but broadened the treatment by description, characteriza- 


tion, more subtle motivation through the introduction of long 
speeches, etc., so that now the story became matter for read- 
ing rather than for song or chanted recital in hall. Those who 
hold this theory explain the inconsistencies and incongruities 
of the poem as we have it, as being due to the peculiarities of 
Old English poetic style, and lay stress on the many evidences 
of unity of plan and structure, as, for instance, the consistently 
developed character of the hero himself. There has been in 
recent years a reaction against the extremes of the ballad 
theory as worked out by Muellenhoff, Ten Brink, and their 
followers, and the weight of scholarship is inclining to some 
form of the single authorship theory. See the first chapter of 
Northern Hero Legends, where the distinction between the 
ancient choric hymns, the later Epic lays, and the still more 
recent literary Epic is clearly and succinctly drawn. Assum- 
ing, then, a single author for Beowulf, he must have been a 
Northumbrian poet of the seventh century, who used ancient 
lays of Beowulf's fight against monsters, but softened and 
civilized the character of Beowulf after the model of the con- 
verted kings of Northumbria, thus making him in every respect 
the contemporary ideal of English heroism. No one who is 
familiar with the writings of King Alfred can fail to be struck 
by the similarity of tone between his sentiments and many of 
Beowulf's speeches. So the landscape, the manners and cus- 
toms, and in general the setting, must be ascribed to this un- 
known Anglian poet of the seventh century. Also, of course, 
the superficial Christian coloring, and the scattered biblical 

Sources. — The sources of Beowulf were oral lays, brought 
over by the Angles in the sixth century from their old homes 
on the continent, where they were the neighbors of Jutes and of 
Danish folk. This explains how it comes that while the scen- 
ery and characterization point to seventh-century North- 
England, the scenes and characters are all continental Ger- 
manic, Danish, Swedish, Jutish, etc. Hrothgar is a Dane. 
The poem opens with a genealogy of Danish kings. The hall 

392 NOTES 

Heorot was in Denmark. Beowulf belonged to the Geats, 
according to some, a tribe of southern Sweden, according to 
others, the Jutes, inhabitants of Jutland. Historic Elements. 
— Though historic memories do not constitute the main 
strand of the Beowulf narrative, as they do of the Nibelungen- 
lied, there are recollections of actual occurrence imbedded in 
the folk-lore and semimythical adventures which are in the 
centre of interest. Thus the raid which Chocilaicus (Latin- 
ized Frankish form of the Old English Hygelac) made in 
520 a.d. against Franks and Frisians, according to Gregory of 
Tours, and in which the invader lost his life, is several times 
alluded to in Beowulf. The hero was a nephew of Hygelac, 
and probably accompanied his uncle on this raid. Soon after 
this he succeeded his kinsman as king of the Jutes. Beo- 
wulf is therefore a historic figure who ruled over the Geats or 
Jutes during the middle of the sixth century, — the very time 
when the Angles, their neighbors, began to migrate to Eng- 
land. Myth and Folklore. — In Old English genealogies occurs 
the name of Beowa as one of the mythical founders of the royal 
line. It has been supposed that Angles and Saxons, before 
their migration to England, celebrated him in song, and that 
the adventures of Beowulf in the poem belonged originally 
to this mythical Beowa. When the fame of the historic Beo- 
wulf was at its height, towards the close of the sixth century, 
the deeds of the older shadowy Beowa, of like-sounding name, 
were transferred to Beowulf, and thus out of mingling of myth 
and historic tradition the lays on which the poem was founded 
are supposed to have arisen. According to this " mythologic 
theory " of the origin of Beowulf, 1 he was originally a kind of 
Sun-god, like Freyr of the Norse mythology, and Grendel is 
variously interpreted as an embodiment of the terrors of the 
misty moors, the stormy sea, the pestilence of the morass, etc. 
Owing to changing conceptions as to the origin of nature 
myths, recent scholars reject many of the conclusions of the 

1 Recently Prof. Axel Olrik in his Danish Epic connects a Finnish deity 
Pekko with Beowa. 


mythological interpreters, and refuse to see in Beowulf and his 
fights against the monsters any profound supernatural sig- 
nificance. No doubt in the stories of Beowulf's encounter 
with the nicors, with Grendel and his dam, there are reminis- 
cences of actual fights with bears, walrus, whales, etc. ; and in 
so far as these have been " monstrified " by popular imagina- 
tion, we are dealing with mere folklore. But in the story of 
the Sheaf-child (see note on myth of the Sheaf-child), and of 
Beowulf's last fight with the fire-dragon, it is difficult not to 
recognize some of the deeper significance that the " mythologic 
interpretation " finds in them. See Stopford Brooke's History 
of Early English Literature, Chap. V. For parallels to the 
Beowulf story in Norse Literature see Grettis Saga (translated 
by Magnusson and Morris), and the Saga of Hrolf Kraki. 
(The relations of the latter to Beowulf are discussed by W. W. 
Lawrence, Modem Language Publications, June, 1909, p. 220. 
Professor Lawrence sharply criticizes the mythologic inter- 
pretation of Beowulf.) 

Translations. — For a complete list of Beowulf translations 
see C. B. Tinker. The most useful prose versions for the stu- 
dent are the following : (1) C. G. Child's, Riverside Literature 
Series, No. 159, Houghton Mifflin Co. (2) C. B. Tinker's, 
New York, Newsonand Co., 1902. (3) J. R. Clark Hall, London, 
1 90 1. (Valuable introduction.) The most recent translation 
is Professor Gummere's in alliterative verse {Oldest English 
Epic, Macmillan's, 1909), a fine reproduction of the movement 
of Old English rhythms, and a very close rendering of the 
original. (Good notes.) 

The Myth of the Sheaf- Child 

The Epic of Beowulf opens with a partly mythic genealogy 
of the Danish King Hrothgar, about whose hall, Heorot, the 
adventures of the first part centre. Scyld, the mythic founder 
of the line, is called " Scefing." " Ing " being the regular 
patronymic ending in Old English, this formula, Scyld Scefing, 
= Scyld the Sheaf-Child, came to be interpreted as equivalent 

394 NOTES 

to Scyld the son of Sceaf, and this imagined father of Scyld is 
actually mentioned in Old English genealogies. Of him early 
chroniclers tell the same story here related of Scyld Scefing. 
Thus Ethelward, a chronicler of the tenth century, relates how 
Sceaf as a little child drifted ashore on an island called Skaney, 
in a boat loaded with arms, and how he later became king of 
that people. William of Malmesbury, telling the same story 
after Ethelward, adds that the child was asleep, his head rest- 
ing on a sheaf of wheat. " The region where he ruled is called 
Old Anglia, whence the English came into Britain, and it is 
situated between the Saxons and the Jutes." If William has 
here preserved an ancient feature of the story, it would seem 
that the myth of the sheaf-child was originally Anglian, and 
was imported into the Danish genealogy. Some scholars 
think that Scyld was the common ancestor of Danish and 
English tribes. According to the mythologic interpretation, 
we have here an ancient culture myth. Ship and sheaf sym- 
bolize navigation and agriculture; the weapons and treasure 
symbolize war and kingship. The four together would 
symbolize the civilization of the low-German tribes of the 
North Sea coast, and Scyld Scefing would represent the founder 
of this civilization. 

6. — 18. Beowulf's fame, etc. This Danish Beowulf, heir 
of Scyld Scefing, is not to be confused with the hero of the 
poem, who was a Geat or Jute. He is probably identical with 
the Beaw of the Old English genealogies, who is there men- 
tioned as a son of Scyld. — 32. Out in the Bay a boat was wait- 
ing. This mode of burial was common among the old North- 
men. When Sigmund in the Volsunga Saga carries his dead 
son Sinfjotli (Fitela in Beowulf) to the shores of a fjord, he 
meets a man in a boat, who ferries the body across the water. 
This is Odin conveying the dead to his kingdom. Sometimes 
fire was set to the burial ship. In the Ynglinga Saga, Haki, 
mortally wounded, has one of his ships loaded with armor and 
bodies of the slain ; tarred wood is stacked over all, and when 
the wind draws from the land, the sails are hoisted, the pyre 


Lindled, and the burning ship is sent to sea. The prose Edda 
tells how the body of Balder the good was laid on the ship 
Ring-horn. On the funeral pyre were placed Balder's ring, 
and his horse with its costly trappings. Then, in the presence 
of all the gods, the burial ship was lighted and sent seaward. 
At a later time it was customary to place both ship and body 
in a barrow or burial vault. In 1880 a well-preserved Viking 
boat with human remains was unearthed near Gokstad in 
Norway. For other references to ship burial see Grimm's 
Mythology, II, 790. With the story of Scyld Scefing, compare 
the Coming and Passing of Arthur in Tennyson's Idylls of the 

The Sea Voyage 

7. — 1. The band of Jutes. Beowulf's people are called 
" Geatas " in the poem. They are generally believed to have 
inhabited southern Sweden; but there is good reason for 
thinking that a tribe of northern Jutland is meant, neighbors 
of the Angles and Saxons in their old home, and I have there- 
fore consistently translated Geatas as Jutes. 

The Fight with Grendel 

Grendel, the monster that ravages Hrothgar's hall, is a 
strange combination of man and beast. In appearance man- 
like, but " huger in bulk than human kind," he is compared 
to an outlaw banished from the habitations of men. His name 
helps to humanize him. The other monsters have no names. 
He is his mother's only son. His father is unknown, though 
by a curious allusion to a Jewish legend, his descent from Cain 
is suggested. He has hands and arms and fingers, and human 
feelings surge in his breast. He laughs, he wails. He is filled 
with hatred and envy at the sound of human revelry. Yet 
with all these human traits, he is at bottom more beast than 
man. His " hands " and " fingers " are armed with huge 
claws. He tears his victims like a wild beast, gulps their 
blood, and devours their bodies. His lair is amoaj; " wolf- 

396 NOTES 

cliffs wild." Though he has the power of human feeling, he 
lacks the power of human utterance. His gruesome song, that 
the Danes hear from the wall, is a mere poetic figure for the 
howl of the wounded beast. There is a touch of the super- 
natural about him, too. His body is spelled against sword- 
stroke. Iron cannot hurt him. His mother's den, in which he 
dies, is beneath the surface of a haunted mere. Mysterious 
gleams flash from its depths at night. He is descended from 
demons. There is something diabolical about him, and when 
.Beowulf kills him, he departs to the " fiends' domain." An 
interesting comparison might be drawn between Grendel and 
Shakespeare's Caliban. 

9. — 6. The house of revelry rose in his path. Heorot, 
" Stag hall " (Old English heorot, hart, stag), probably derived 
its name from the antlers that adorned the gable-ends. In the 
Finnsburg lay there is an allusion to the " horned gables of the 
hall." For a description of the Scandinavian hall, see Clark 
Hall's Beowulf, p. 174. The building was rectangular, with 
rows of pillars running down each side. The space between 
wall and pillars was raised in two tiers above the main floor, 
and served for seats. In front of these were ranged the tables, 
— boards laid on trestles, and removed at night, when the 
retainers slept in the hall. The hearth was in the centre, and 
the smoke found its way out through openings in the roof. 
Halfway down the tier of seats, generally on the south side, 
was the " high-seat," occupied by the lord of the hall. For a 
description of the customs of a Germanic hall, see note on 

10. — 25. But Wyrd had otherwise willed his doom. 
" Wyrd " (Norse Urd, one of the three Norns) is the Old 
English goddess of fate, whom even Christianity could not 
entirely displace. " Fair are the glories of Christ ; Wyrd is 
strongest," says an Old English proverb. (See Gnomic 
Verses, p. 75, 1. 4.) The weird sisters, i.e. the " fate sisters," 
in Macbeth are survivals in Scottish tradition of the Germanic 
Wyrd. For a striking picture of the Norse " weavers of 


Fate," see the Icelandic Njals Saga, Chap. 157. (Dasent's 
translation, The Story of Burnt Njal, republished, London, 
Grant Richards, 1900; and Gray's Fatal Sisters.) — 59. Ale- 
spilling fray. Literally " ale-bereavement," — reminiscent of 
the wild oversetting of tankards and spilling of ale when the 
hall was suddenly attacked. For famous Germanic hall- 
fights see the close of the N ibelungenlied (Needier' s translation), 
the Old English Finnsburg Fragment (Gummere's Oldest 
English Epic), and the fine Eddie lay of Hamthir, where there 
is a vivid picture of an " ealu-scerwen," an ale-spilling : 

" There was tumult in the hall, the tankards were upset 
The men lay in blood that mingled with beer." 

11. — 94. Point would not pierce, etc. "Spells" which 
protected those who knew them, against injury, were familiar 
to our Germanic ancestors. See Charm against a Sudden 
Stitch, and note. Later, Beowulf's sword refuses to bite on 
the body of Grendel's mother. She was spelled against all 
swords but her own, and it is with this that Beowulf finally 
kills her. In the Njals Saga (Chap. 30), Hallgrim has a 
sword " which he had made by seething spells; and this is 
what the spells say, that no weapon shall give him his death- 
blow save that sword. When a man is to be slain by that 
sword, something sings in it so loudly that it may be heard a 
long way off." This belief in " spells " and charmed weapons 
lasted a long time. Macbeth smiles at swords and laughs 
weapons to scorn, because he thinks he has been spelled against 
them by the witches, and when he meets Macduff, he says : 

Let fall thy blade on vulnerable crests ; 
/ bear a charmed life." 

For charmed weapons, cf. Faerie Queene, Bk. I, Canto IV, 
stanza 50. 

12. — 124. This token they saw. Beowulf probably hung 
his battle-trophy on some projection above the door on the 
outside of the hall ; for later we are told that Hrothgar sees it 
as he is standing on the steps outside. For an interesting 

398 NOTES 

Norse parallel see the Icelandic Saga of Grettir the Strong, 
Chaps. 35 and 36. (Translated by Magnusson and Morris.) 
In this story the hero fights a cat-monster. " The men of 
Bard-dale say that day dawned on her while they wrestled, 
and that she burst when he cut the arm from her." The paral- 
lels are probably due to a modification and domestication 
of the Grendel story in Iceland. Cf. also the Danish saga 
of Bodvar Bjarki (Lawrence. Mod. Lang. Publ., June, ioco, 
pp. 220 sq.). 

The Fight with Grendel' s Mother 

13. — 15. Where mountain torrents, etc. Professor Gum- 
mere compares Kubla Khan : 

" Where Alph the sacred river ran 
Through caverns measureless to man 
Down to a sunless sea." 

14. — 42. To each of us here the end must come, etc. See 
note on Widsith, p. 5. 

15. — 67. Caves of the nicors. Sea-monsters, variously 
interpreted; here probably the walrus (whale-horse). Vig- 
fusson's Icelandic dictionary defines them as " fabulous water 
goblins, mostly appearing in the shape of a gray water-horse." 
The word is common Germanic. In modern English Old Nick 
has become a land-lubber and got mixed up with Nicholas. 
From the German feminine form, we get "nixy." Matthew 
Arnold's Neckan is from the Swedish " naecken." See Cent. 
Diet. "Nick" and "nicker." — ■ 81. They saw in the water 
sea-snakes, etc. Cf. the fine assortment of sea-monsters in 
the Faerie Queene, Bk. II, Canto XII, 22-25 : 

" Spring headed Hydras and sea-shouldering whales 
Great whirlpooles which all fishes make to flee ; 
Bright Scolopendraes arm'd with silver scales ; 
Mighty Monoceroses with immeasured tayles. 
The dreadful Fish that hath deserved the name 
Of Death, and like him lookes in dreadfull hew; 
The griesly Wasserman, that makes his game 
The flying ships with swiftness to pur sew; 


The horrible Sea-Satyre, that doth shew 
His fearf ull face in time of greatest storme ; 
Huge Ziffius, whom Mariners eschew 
No less then rockes, (as travellers informe) 
And greedy Rosmarines with visages deforme." 

— 86. Sudden they fled. So, in the Faerie Queene, when the 
palmer smote the sea with his staff, 

" all that dreadful armie fast gan fly 
Into great Tethys bosome, where they hidden lye." 

16. — 120. Swiftly he sank, etc. In the story of Grettir, 
the hero fights a giant in a cave under a waterfall. It is 
clearly a reminiscence of Beowulf's adventure. " Then 
Grettir dived under the force (waterfall), and hard work it 
was, because the whirlpool was strong, and he had to dive 
down to the bottom before he might come up under the force, 
and the river fell over it from the sheer rocks. He went up 
into the cave, and there was a great fire flaming from amidst 
of brands ; and there he saw a giant sitting withal, mar- 
vellously great, and dreadful to look on. . . . And the giant 
was fain to reach for a sword that hung up there in the cave ; 
but therewithal Grettir smote him afore into the breast, and 
smote off well-nigh all the breast, bone and belly, so that 
the bowels tumbled out of him and fell into the river, and 
were driven down along the stream; and as the priest 
(who has been holding a rope for Grettir to pull himself up 
by) sat by the rope, he saw certain fibres all covered with 
blood swept down the swirls of the stream; then ... he 
thought for sure that Grettir was dead, and got him Home. 
But Grettir went up the cave, after he had killed the giant, 
and kindled a light, and espied the cave. The story tells 
not how much he got therein, but it must have been something 

17. — 134. Though eager to smite her, his arm was help- 
less. So in the story of Grettir : " She held him to her so 
hard that he might turn his hands to no account save to keep 
fast hold on the middle of the witch." — 146. Sang on her 

400 NOTES 

head the hard-forged blade. The sword in Germanic Epic 
has a well-marked personality. It has its proper name, its 
pedigree and history, its runic inscription on the hilt, with the 
name of the maker. It was faithful to its owner, or on occa- 
sion it failed him like a traitor, as here. Often it encouraged 
him, and spurred him on to do his best. It drank the blood 
from the wound in battle-gulps, and sang its war-song wild 
on the head of the foe. Oaths were sworn on the sword, and 
if a sword-oath is broken, the blade will not bite but on the 
owner's head. Swords were among the most precious heir- 
looms handed down from father to son. " They were not in- 
animate tools of war, but seemed alive, endowed with super- 
natural powers, witnesses and symbols of the most important 
transactions of life, intimate comrades in the hour of need." 
(Uhland.) — Moreover, every sword had its own peculiar 
ring, by which it could be recognized, like the sound of the 
human voice. In the story of Offa (see Uhland's ballad, Der 
Blinde, Kcenig, and Saxo, V, 4, p. 96), the blind old king, Wer- 
mund, listening to a dual combat between his son and a Viking 
chief, recognizes the triumphant voice of his old sword, and 
knows that his son is victorious. — 148. Battle-flasher. A fine 
kenning for the sword. As Uhland points out (Deutsche 
Heldensage), swords were often named for their light-giving 
power. Valhalla was lighted by swords. In the Finnsburg 
fragment, during a night-attack upon the hall, the " sword- 
light flashed as though all Finnsburg were on fire." — 163. 
The murderous hag by the hair he caught. The Ms. reads 
eaxle'= shoulder, emended by Sweet to feaxe ~ hair, which 
improves both the sense and the alliteration. 

18. — 175. All had been over with Ecgtheow's son. A 
desperate attempt on the part of the Christian poet to hold 
the balance between the providence of God and the prowess 
of the hero. Yet the passage is quite in keeping with the 
sentiment of line 572 : " Wyrd will often deliver an undoomed 
earl, if his courage is good." 

19. — 208. The lifeless body sprang from the blows, etc. 


Not an act. of wanton revenge, but probably in order to prevent 
Grendel's double or ghost from haunting the hall. 

20. — 243. Swift to the shore came lustily swimming. 
Swimming and diving were accomplishments of every able 
warrior in the North. " He could swim like a seal, " says the 
Njals Saga of a certain hero. One of Beowulf's youthful adven- 
tures was a great swimming match out on the open sea with 
Brecca. Five days and nights he battled with the waves, and 
with his naked sword slew the nicors that beset him. In the 
passage referring to the fight in which Hygelac was killed 
(11. 2354-2372), Beowulf is said to have escaped by swimming, 
loaded down with his booty of thirty suits of armor ! 

Beowulf's Last Fight and Death 

The story of the dragon and treasure are common 
motives of Germanic Epic. See the tale of Sigurd and Fafnir, 
in the Volsunga Saga, on which Wagner has based his Sigfrid- 

22. — 29. Uprose with his shield. Probably an old Epic 
formula. So in the Latin Waltharius (see Scheffel's Ekkehard), 
the hero " in clipeum surgit." 

23. — 57. As the worm coiled back. " Worm " is the na- 
tive Germanic word for dragon. — 60. The shield of iron, etc. 
A difficult passage, which none of the translators have made 
clear. I take the verb " wealdan " to refer to the shield, and 
by supplying the pronoun " his " or " him " (i.e. the shield) as 
object of " wealdan," to wield, we get the following sense : 
Beowulf, having a brand-new iron shield, had a right to 
expect that it would last longer than it did, seeing that he 
wielded (it) for the first time (jorman dogore), on that occasion 
(h fyrste). 

24. — 89. Fled to the wood. For a parallel situation, and 
reproach of the cowards, see the Battle of Maldon, p. 89, 1. 169. 
The speech of ^Elfwine (Maldon, 11. 195 sq.) closely echoes that 
of Wiglaf, and illustrates the Germanic trait of loyalty to the 
leader which Tacitus had noted long ago (Germania, Chap. 14) : 

402 NOTES 

" Base it is for the followers (comitatus) not to equal the 
courage of the leader; but infamous and disgraced for the 
rest of his life is he who returns from the battle surviving his 
lord." — 92. Wiglaf his name. Wiglaf was a kinsman of 
Beowulf (see Beowulf's last speech, 1. 283), and therefore 
doubly bound to stand by his lord. 

26. — 157. Broken was Naegling. The name of Beowulf's 
sword. Other famous sword-names were Hrunting (thruster), 
the sword Unferth gave to Beowulf; Miming, the sword 
Wayland the smith made for Sigurd according to the Thidreks- 
saga; Balmung, Sigfried's sword in the Nibelungenlied. See 
note on p. 17, 146. — 160. His hand was too heavy. Saxo 
tells the same thing of Offa. No sword was of such stiffness 
that he did not shiver it at the first stroke into many pieces, 
" crebra partium fractione dissolveret ! " See also Volsunga 
Saga, Chap. XV, Sigurd's sword-test. — 175. Thrust from 
below, etc. The dragons of Germanic folklore have scaly 
backs that no sword may pierce, and can only be killed 
from below. In the Volsunga Saga, Sigurd kills the dragon 
Fafnir by digging a pit in his path and stabbing him from 

27. — 193. Work of the giants. Tacitus says that the 
Teutons abhorred stone walls. To the Angles and Saxons who 
invaded England in the fifth and sixth centuries, accustomed 
as they were to wooden halls of the Heorot type, the remnants of 
Roman architecture were " Giants' work." " Castles are seen 
from afar, reared by giants they rise in the land, wondrous walls 
of masonry," say the Gnomic Verses (see p. 75). The word 
translated " castles " is the Roman castra. — 195. Upheld 
that, hill-vault, etc. Literally " earth-house." This name 
is said to be still applied in Scotland to the underground 
structures known as Picts' houses. See " earth-house," 
Cent. Diet. 

28. — 230. Bore his battle-net in. " Battle-net " is a 
kenning for corslet, and the whole is an Epic phrase for " ad- 
vanced." The corslet of ring-mail was composed of small fine 


iron rings which were so arranged that every ring was inter- 
locked with four others. A complete corslet of this kind, 
found at Vimoor (Funen), was made up of about 20,000 rings, 
and it is estimated that it must have taken a man something 
like a year to make it. Like the sword, the corslet was a 
valued heirloom, and Beowulf leaves his own to Wiglaf at his 
death. (See fig. 6 in Clark Hall's Beowulf.) — 232. Many a 
sun-bright jewel he saw. Dragon-guarded treasure played 
a great role in Germanic folklore. The best known is the 
famous Nibelungen hoard won by Sigfried when he kills the 
dragon. The towering banner, with gold inwoven, may be a 
reminiscence of a legionary standard left behind in the hurried 
withdrawal of the Roman garrisons under Honorius, 410 a.d. 
The military standard of the Roman emperors consisted of a 
staff or lance carrying a purple banner on a cross-bar. The 
banner usually bore the effigy of the emperor. But Constan- 
tine, who, it will be remembered, was crowned at York, after 
his conversion to Christianity placed upon it, woven in 
gold, the mystic monogram consisting of the Greek letter 
X(=Ch) and P( = R), standing for " Christ." (For a detailed 
description of the Labarum, see Eusebius' Life of Constantine, 
quoted in Cook's Christ, p. 190.) It is far from improbable 
that some such standard, hidden away with other Roman 
treasure, was discovered by Anglian invaders of the North of 

29. — 277. Beowulf's Barrow. So Achilles had his tomb 
" high on a jutting headland over wide Hellespont, that it 
might be seen from afar off the sea by men that now are and 
by those that shall be hereafter." (Odyssey, Book 24, Butcher 
and Lang's translation.) — 290. To find the reward of the 
faithful. A Christian touch out of keeping with what Beowulf 
has just said about Wyrd sweeping away the last of his line 
to the land of doom. For a similar mingling of the Christian 
and the old Germanic mood in contemplating the here- 
after, see the close of the Gnomic verse from the Cotton 
Ms., p. 77. 

404 NOTES 


Fall of Man 

The selection given in the text comprises the greater part 
of the so-called Younger Genesis (Genesis B), a fragment of 
some 600 lines in ninth or tenth century West Saxon. This 
fragment is found imbedded in the West Saxon version of an 
older Northumbrian poem on the same subject, and was 
probably inserted to fill a gap in the Ms. of the older poem 
(Genesis A). Owing to certain peculiarities of diction and 
structure, Professor Sievers in 1875 argued that this interpola- 
tion, which he called Genesis B, was translated into the West 
Saxon from a continental Old Saxon original. The subsequent 
discovery (1894) of fragments of this Old Saxon original in 
the Vatican Library at Rome brilliantly verified the hypothe- 
sis of Professor Sievers. My colleague, Professor G. H. Ge- 
rould, suggests (M. L. N. May 1911) that a copy of the Old 
Saxon poem was brought to England by a certain Saxon 
clerk who came from Liege, and was in the service of x\rch- 
bishop Dunstan and his successor, and who wrote the first 
biography of Dunstan, signing himself B. If this hypothesis be 
correct, we must assign to the Younger Genesis a date somewhat 
after 970, which is considerably later than that usually given. 

In the same Ms. with the Genesis ( A and B) are found poems 
and poetic paraphrases of other portions of the Biblical narra- 
tive, Exodus, Daniel, The Temptation of Christ, etc. This 
interesting Ms., containing contemporary illustrations, is now 
kept in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Its contents were 
first published in 1655 as Ccedmon's Paraphrase by the Dutch 
scholar Junius, who was under the impression that he had 
discovered the poems attributed by Bede to Caedmon. (See 
Bede's Ecclesiastical History, Bk. IV, Chap. 24, Temple 
Classics ed.) Modern scholarship has proved this assump- 
tion unwarranted, and none of the poems of the Junius Ms. 
are now ascribed to Caedmon. 

from Beginning to norman conquest 405 

As Junius was a friend of Milton's, it is not at all unlikely 
that he acquainted the author of Paradise Lost with the Old 
English poem on the Fall of Man. On this question see Mas- 
son's Life of Milton, 6, 557 note. Stopford Brooke, E. E. L., 
Chap. XV, p. 281, and Chaps. XVI and XVII, for parallels be- 
tween Milton and the Old English Genesis. Also A. S. Cook, 
"Milton and Caedmon," Academy, 34, 420. 

The Old English Fall of Man, with all its crudities and weary- 
ing repetitions, is full of dramatic vigor, and shows consider- 
able skill in characterization and handling of motive. 

30. — 1. The Ruler of Hosts, etc. Note how the concep- 
tion of the Germanic comitatus underlies this portrayal. God 
is pictured as leader and overlord rather than as creator ; 
he bestows power and is the giver of treasure ; his bounty is 
the source of endowments physical and mental. — 7. He 
dowered them all, etc. The Old Saxon poet is characterized 
by his fondness for lines of redundant beats, the " Schwell- 
vers," as Professor Sievers calls it. I have tried to give the 
effect of this by the use of five and six beat lines with medial 
pause. — n. His lord he was bound to serve. As the chief 
virtue of the lord is generosity, the chief duty of the thane is 
loyalty. By emphasizing these Germanic motives, the Saxon 
poet puts Satan* in the wrong at the very outset, whereas 
Milton's first portrait of the rebel angel tempts us to sympathy 
if not admiration. No Germanic audience would have felt 
anything but unmixed disapproval of a disloyal thane, no 
matter how fine his spirit. 

31". — 30. In the North and West. In Talmudic tradition 
the North was the region of the demons, the East of God, the 
South of the Angels, and the West of Man. In Gen. A Satan 
strives with God to possess a home and high-seat in the North. 
In 1. 339 Eve says : " I can see where He sits himself, — 'tis 
South and East — the world's creator." In Cynewulf 's Crist 
(see p. 481, 34) the Saviour appears on Judgment Day in the 
South and East. Cf. Milton's " Homeward with flying march, 
where we possess the quarters of the North," Paradise Lost, V, 

406 NOTES 

688. In Henry VI, Pt. I, V, Sc. 3, Satan is called " Monarch 
of the North." For a fine poetical rendering of this tradition, 
see Stephen Hawker's Quest of the Sangrail, pp. 178-180. 
{Poetical Works of R. S. Hawker. John Lane, London and 
New York, 1899.) 

32. — 64. Ever fire or frost. So Milton : 

" the parching air 
Burns frore, and cold performs the effect of fire." 

(See the whole passage, Paradise Lost, II, 594-603.) 

33. — 81. This narrow place is nothing like, etc. 

" Is this the region, this the soil, the clime, 
Said then the lost archangel, this the seat 
That we must change for heaven," etc. 

— Paradise Lost, I, 243. 

— 96. But iron bonds are all about me. The illustrated Ms. 
shows Satan held fast in the mouth of hell, which is pictured 
as a dragon. Compare with Satan's speech the argument of 
Beelzebub in Paradise Lost, II. 

34. — 135. If any there be whom erst I favored. Again the 
Germanic stress on the duty of the thane to repay in time of 
need the generosity of his lord. Cf. Wiglaf 's speech, Beowulf, 
p. 24, and Battle of Maldon, 1. 195. The conception of sending 
a substitute for Satan because he himself is unable to go seems 
original with the Old Saxon poet. Milton makes Satan under- 
take the journey himself. 

35. — 142. Don his feather-robe, fly through the air. The 
feather-robe or suit of wings is familiar to Germanic mythol- 
ogy. When Smith Wayland, the Germanic Vulcan, was ham- 
strung by his foe to prevent his escape, he donned his feather- 
robe and flew out through the smoke-hole of his smithy. 
Avitus, a Latin poet of the fourth century who wrote a poem 
on the Fall of Man, and whose work the Old Saxon poet may 
have known, ascribes to Satan the power of changing into beast 
or bird : 

" Alitis interdum subito mentita volantis 
Fit species." 


— 160. Set helmet on head. The West-Saxon has hale - 
helm, i.e. hero-helmet, but Koegel suggests that the Old Saxon 
read helip-helm, i.e. helmet of concealment, the " tarn-kappe," 
or cap of invisibility of Germanic folklore. In the Heliand, an 
Old Saxon alliterative poem on the life of Christ, the Devil 
wears his " helith-helm " to deceive men. — 163. He mounted 
aloft, etc. Cf. Paradise Lost, II, 927 : 

" At last his sail-broad vans 
He spreads for flight, and in the surging smoke 
Uplifted, spurns the ground ; thence many a league 
As in a cloudy chair ascending rides," 

and contrast the music of Milton's interlinked alliterations 
with the hammer-blow style of the Anglo-Saxon. 

36. — 203. In the shape of a serpent. The Old English word 
is " worm," the same used for the dragon in Beowulf. The 
" worm " of Germanic folklore is a dragon or serpent monster. 

38. — 253. Far from the East. See note on 31 — 30. 

41. — 366. Yet did she it all in duty and love. The old 
poet saves the character of Eve and enlists our pity for her. 
How different from Milton's Eve, compact of vanity and 
shallow deceitfulness ! (Paradise Lost, V, 816 ff.) In the 
Old English poem Adam yields from utter weariness, a very 
human touch. Milton makes him eat 

" Against his better knowledge, not deceived 
But fondly overcome with female charm." 

41. — 380. He laughed aloud and leaped for joy. Contrast 
with this exultant note, Milton's " Back to the thicket slunk 
the guilty serpent." 

The Drowning of the Egyptians 

The Exodus is one of the poems found in the Junius Ms. 
Its date is unknown, but it is certainly much older than the 
Younger Genesis, and was probably composed in Northumbria. 
It contains 589 lines, and the translated passage fairly illus- 
trates the descriptive vigor of the poem, its imaginative inten- 

408 NOTES 

sity and vividness of phrase, and also the variation and repe- 
tition so characteristic of Old English verse. While long 
stretches of verse in the Junius Ms. are mere alliterative para- 
phrase of the Bible story, the Exodus stands out as an independ- 
ent poem, created by the imagination of the unknown author out 
of the Old Testament narrative. For a literary appreciation, 
see Stopford Brooke, E. E. L., pp. 315-324. For a brief, critical 
discussion of the problems involved, see Professor F. A. Black- 
burn's introduction to his edition of Exodus and Daniel in the 
Belles Lettres Series (D. C. Heath and Co., 1907). The Exodus 
presents unusual difficulties to the translator. This is not the 
place to justify the renderings adopted. Students of Old English 
should compare Professor Blackburn's notes on the passage. 

44. — 53. When the dark upheaval o'erwhelmed them all. 
This rendering is based on Professor Blackburn's emendation of 
a corrupt passage in the text. Professor Blackburn translates : 
" Then on them fell the hugest of wild waves, dark with its 
towering mass." 


Northumbrian Hymn 

The familiar story of Csedmon, the shepherd poet of Whitby, 
is told by Bede in his Ecclesiastical History (Bk. 4, Chap. 24, 
Temple Classics). Caedmon began to compose poetry about 
670, and the Northumbrian hymn in all probability represents 
his first attempt at sacred song. A peculiar interest therefore 
attaches to this hymn, because it is the first passage of English 
poetry whose date and authorship are definitely known. The 
original Northumbrian version of the hymn is preserved in an 
old Ms. of Bede's history, and was copied there about 737. 
We give the original Northumbrian verses below, as a sped- 


men of the oldest form of English verse, — older than the 
West Saxon version of the Beowulf. 

" Nu scylun hergan hef aenricas uard, 
metudass maecti end his modgidanc, 
uerc uuldur-fadur, swe he uundra gihiKes 
eci dryctin or astelidae. 
He aerist scop aelda barnum 
heben til hrof e haleg scepen ; 
tha middungeard moncynnes uard, 
eci dryctin aefter tiadae 
firum foldan, frea allmectig. 
Primo cantauit Caedmon istud carmen." 


Hymn of Praise 

The Hymn of Praise is taken from Cynewulf's Crist, Part I, 
11. 347-377. The Crist is a poem of three parts in which 
are celebrated the Advent, the Ascension, and the Second 
Coming of Christ (Doomsday). There is in the Old Saxon 
dialect a poem called the Heliand, Saviour (German, Heiland), 
probably by the same writer who composed the Younger 
Genesis, which presents the life of Christ in narrative form 
On the background of Germanic manners and customs, in the 
style of the old Germanic Epic. The Crist, on the other 
hand, is a series of essentially lyric poems, based on the anti- 
phones, hymns, and homilies of the Latin Church. " We must 
conceive of Cynewulf as so thrilled by the sweet and solemn 
chanting of the greater Antiphones of Advent . . . that he 
gladly yielded to the impulse to reproduce them in English 
under the form of variations. ... He abridged, expanded, 
suppressed, or transferred, as his genius suggested, freely 
interpolated matter from other sources, and welded the 
whole together by closing with a magnificent doxology." 
(A. S. Cook, Introduction to Crist, p. XLII. Albion Series, 
Ginn and Co.) The personal, lyric note predominates in 

410 NOTES 

Cynewulf 's Crist, and the rough music of the old alliterative verse 
is softened to express the new emotions of a personal religion. 
The passages from the Crist are especially notable as affording 
an early instance of that liturgic genius of the English language 
which finds its fullest expression in the Book of Common Prayer. 
Near the close of the second part of Crist, the name " Cyne- 
wulf " is woven into the verse in runic characters. The same 
name, similarly signed, is found in three other poems, Elene, 
Juliana, and The Fates of the Apostles, all of them based on 
Latin saints' legends. For a translation of all these signed 
passages, see Professor Cook's introduction to the Dream of the 
Rood (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1905). In a passage of the 
Elene (11. 1 237-1 257) immediately preceding the runic insertion 
the poet gives some account of himself from which we gather 
that he was at the time an old man, and that he had undergone 
a deep religious experience, as a result of which his spirit, 
previously fettered by sin, found peace, and was inspired to 
sacred song. He was probably a Northumbrian, and lived at 
the end of the eighth century. Many other poems besides the 
ones above mentioned have been ascribed to Cynewulf, among 
them the Phoenix and the Dream of the Rood, or Vision of the 
Cross, both of which are represented in the translations. 
Though neither of these poems is signed, there is good reason 
for thinking they are by Cynewulf. For a survey of Cynewulf 
criticism, and a summary of its results, see Professor Cook's 
introduction to his edition, quoted above, and Dr. C. W. 
Kennedy's introduction to Cynewulf s Poems translated into 
English Prose (Swan, Sonnenschein, London, 1910). For a 
new interpretation of the rune passage in Elene, see Dr. 
Brown's article, M. L. N. 

The Voyage of Life 

These lines are based on the following passage of Gregory's 
homily on the Ascension : " But let hope, as an anchor of the 
soul fixed within the heavenly country whither Jesus our 


forerunner is entered, hold us steadfast amid the fluctuations 
of this mortal life." Our selection is typical of the way in 
which Cynewulf expands and makes poetry out of his Latin 


This passage is from Crist, Part III, 11. 867-874; 878-909; 
972-1006. Many of the hymns and homilies of the Latin 
Church dealt with the Last Judgment, and the subject was a 
favorite one with the Old English writers. Compare the 
well-known hymn Dies irae, dies ilia. Cynewulf was probably 
familiar with an alphabetic hymn quoted by Bede, beginning 

" Apparebit repentina, dies magna domini 
fur obscura velut nocte improvisos occupans." 
(Suddenly shall appear the great day of the Lord, like a thief 
in the night falling on the unsuspecting.) 

" Clangor tubae per quaternas terrae plagas concinens 
vivos una mortuosque Christo ciet obviam." 
(The blast of the trumpet, sounding through the four quarters 
of the earth, shall call before Christ the living and the dead.) 
Professor Cook prints the whole hymn in his introduction to 
the Crist, p. 171, and quotes Stopford Brooke: " This trum- 
pet voice of the heart belongs to the English nature, and the 
lofty music of Milton's praise came down to him in legitimate 
descent from the earliest exultations of English psalm." 

48. — 36. From South and East, etc. See note on 1. 30 
of the Fall of Man. 

The Vision of the Cross 

The Vision of the Cross, generally called the Dream of the 
Rood, is found in the " Vercelli Book," a Ms. collection of Old 
English verse and prose, mostly religious in character, discov- 
ered in the cathedral library of Vercelli, Italy, in 1822. The 
authorship of the Vision is unknown, but there are strong 

412 NOTES 

reasons for believing that Cynewulf wrote it. The Elene., 
one of Cynewulf's signed poems, is inspired by the story of 
Constantine's famous vision of the cross ; and the discovery of 
the true cross by Constantine's mother Helena (Elene) forms 
the main subject of that poem. In the personal passage re- 
ferred to above (see note on Crist), Cynewulf says : 

" Not once but often within me I pondered 
The Cross of Glory, ere I came to unfold 
The marvel rare of the radiant tree 
As I found it in books in the fulness of time, 
Writ to reveal the victory-token" (11. 1252-1257). 

Even if we do not interpret these words as a direct reference to 
the Vision, as some critics have done ; the personal note in the 
Vision of the Cross is so close to that revealed in the personal 
passages of the Crist and the Elene, that it is difficult to believe 
that Cynewulf did not write this tenderest and most deeply felt 
of Old English religious poems. For a convenient review of the 
authorship problem, see Professor Cook's edition {Dream of 
the Rood, Clarendon Press, 1905), and Dr. Kennedy's introduc- 
tion to the Poems of Cynewulf, pp. 62-68. The dramatic per- 
sonification of inanimate objects is a common device in Old 
English poetry. Cf . The Riddles and The Husband's Message. 

Apart from its literary value, a peculiar interest attaches to 
the Vision of the Cross because some lines of the poem are in- 
scribed in runic characters on the Ruthwell Cross, an ancient 
monumental stone, still preserved at Ruthwell in Annandale, 
near the Scottish border. On the general subject of Old 
English Cross Literature, see The Cross in the Life and Litera- 
ture of the Anglo-Saxons, by W. O. Stevens ( Yale Studies, 
XXIII, Henry Holt and Co.). 

50. — 1. List to the words of a wondrous vision. Compare 
the vision of Constantine : " About midday, when the sun was 
beginning to decline, he saw with his own eyes the trophy of a 
cross of light, in the heavens, above the sun, and bearing the 
inscription : Conquer by this." (Eusebius, Life of Constantine, 
Bk. I, Chap. 28. The whole passage will be found translated 


in Cook's edition of the Crist, p. 190.) Cynewulf alludes to 
this vision of Constantine in Elene, 11. 68-85. There is a similar 
Cross vision at the close of the Crist, 11. 1083 sq. — 9. 'Twas 
no gallows-tree. In the Old English, as in the other Germanic 
dialects, the word " gallows " was also used to signify the cross. 
See Cent. Diet., " Gallows." In form the T-shaped St. An- 
thony's cross closely resembled a gallows. 

51. — 28. Many years ago, etc. A portion of the Vision 
is in the longer alliterative line also appearing in the Younger 
Genesis. As the expanded lines predominate in the narrative 
portions, and the shorter lines in the lyric portions, I have 
used the lines of different length to mark this distinction 
throughout. — 38. Then stripped the mighty hero. The 
heroic note comes out strong here. The voluntary character 
of the sacrifice of Christ, emphasized by the Latin Church 
writers, appealed to the Germanic mind. Yet, curiously 
enough, in the Heliand it is not found, — we have mere para- 
phrase at this point. See also Milton's 

" Most perfect hero tried in heaviest plight 
Of labours huge and hard, too hard for human wight. " 

— The Passion, 13, 14. 

On the Ruthwell Cross are found the words in runic characters 
" [Un] clothed Himself God Almighty, when He would mount 
the cross, courageous in the sight of all men." For a descrip- 
tion of the Ruthwell Cross, and a literal rendering of three other 
passages from the Vision, inscribed thereon, see Cook and 
Tinker, Translations from Old English Poetry (Ginn and Co., 
1903), pp. 100-102. — 43. I stood, a cross uplifted. Literally, 
" A Rood was I upreared." Professor Cook quotes from a 
Middle English poem of the thirteenth century to show how 
this alliterative formula persisted : 

" High upon a down 

there all folk it see may 
A mile from the town 

about the midday 
The rood is up areared 

414 NOTES 

His friends are af eared 

and clingeth to the clay. 
The rood stands in stone 
Mary stands alone 

and saith ' Welaway.' " 

— 43. The King of Glory I carried. A cross preserved in" the 
Cathedral of Brussels, and said to contain fragments of the 
true cross, has an Old English inscription of two lines ap- 
parently taken from the Vision : 

" Cross am I called, the King long since 
Trembling I bore, with blood besprent." 

53. — 66. Chanted a lay of mourning. The same phrase 
is used in the description of Beowulf's burial, where the com- 
rades of the hero circle about his barrow in solemn procession 
and say that 

" He was mildest of men and most beloved 
Kindest of Kings, and keenest for honor." 

All but the last phrase might have been used in the chant of 
mourning at Christ's grave, but the necessary elimination of 
that last epithet, " keenest for honor," shows the difference 
between the old Germanic and the Christian ideal. According 
to the latter, " fame " is " the last infirmity of noble mind," 
whereas the virtues of Beowulf culminate in his eagerness for 
fame. — 69. Long I stood, etc. The Ms. is defective at this 
point, and the translation compresses several lines into one. 
In the original it is " we " stood, " we " were felled, " we," 
were buried, etc. The crosses of the malefactors are meant, 
which according to the legend were found by the side of the 
cross of Christ by Helena. — 87. At this point 11. 91-121 of 
the original are omitted. They are far inferior to the rest 
of the poem, and read like a homiletic interpolation. 

54. — 108. May He who suffered, etc. The last five lines 
of our version represent, but are hardly a translation of, 
11. 144-156 of the original. The conditions under which Old 
English poetry was transmitted make it only too probable 
that interpolations and additions by inferior hands often mar 


the original. The translator whose aim it is to be faithful to 
the spirit of the original has a right to exercise a freedom not 
permissible were he editing the original text. He is certainly 
under no obligation to perpetuate in modern verse the maun- 
derings of pious but prosy scribes, or to play Titania to the 
poetical brayings of long-eared monkish Bottoms. Of the 
lines in question the Clarendon Press editor of the Dream of 
the Rood says : " The conclusion ... is in quite a different 
manner, and seems alien to the prevailing sentiment of the poem. 
It is cool and objective in tone, and has no necessary vital 
relation to what has preceded. Pending further elucidation, 
we can only conclude that it has either come here by accident, 
or that the poet's judgment was at fault. The poem should 
have ended with 148 a, or perhaps better with 146." 

The Phcenix 

The Phcenix is a poem of 677 lines, preserved in the Exeter 
Book. The translation gives 11. 1-264, an d H- 570-677. The 
poem is unsigned, but has many of the characteristics of Cyne- 
wulf's style. For a summary of critical opinion on the ques- 
tion of authorship, see Cook's introduction to Cynewulf's 
Crist, p. LXIII, and Kennedy's introduction to his prose 
translation of Cynewulf's poems, pp. 56-62. The Phcenix 
is based on a Latin poem by Lactantius, (ca. 300 A.D.), who has 
been called the Christian Cicero. (The Latin poem is printed 
in Bright's Anglo-Saxon Reader, Appendix I.) It is known 
that the works of Lactantius were in the library at York, 
and Cynewulf may have read the Latin poem there. The 
story of the Phcenix, which rises again from its own ashes, was 
a favorite theme of the early Christian writers, and was inter- 
preted by them as a symbol of the resurrection of the body and 
the life everlasting. " This allegorical treatment of the life of 
beasts and birds, and also of the great tales of the world; the 
taking up of the whole of natural history into the realm of the 
spiritual — human thoughts and emotions being imputed to 
animals — is of great antiquity, and especially among the Semi- 

416 NOTES 

tic peoples ; through the Old Testament, through the Talmud, 
through the parables of Christ, it descended to the early Chris- 
tian writers .... Ambrose, for example, uses the phoenix as the 
symbol of the resurrection." Stopford Brooke, E. E. L. In a 
collection of a hundred Latin riddles, ascribed to Symphosius, 
there is the following on the Phcenix : 

" Vita mihi mors est, si coepero nasci 
Sed prius est fatum leti quam lucis origo ; 
Sic solus manes ipsos mihi dico parentes." 

(Death is life to me, if I begin to be born. But first comes the 
fate of dissolution, before the beginning of life. Thus I am 
alone in giving the name of parents to my ancestral shades.) 
The first part of the poem relates the fable of the Phcenix, 
after Lactantius, but the 170 lines of the original are expanded 
into 380 in the Old English version. The second part, con- 
taining the Christian interpretation and application of the 
fable, is the English poet's own addition. Though inspired 
by his Latin original, the vividness and beauty of the land- 
scape belong largely to the Old English poet, and the fervors 
of Christian joy and hope are entirely his. The Phoenix is 
interesting as one of the earliest examples in English literature 
of ideal landscape. Contrast in this respect the landscape in 
Beowulf, and compare with the landscape in the Pearl. 

55. — 24. No hill-sides steep nor hollows deep. Examples 
of this sort of rime combined with alliteration are not uncom- 
mon in Old English verse. Lines 15-16 of the Phoenix read: 

" Ne forstes fnsest, ne fyres blsest 
Ne haegles hryre, ne hrimes dryre." 

This complicated form was common in Old Norse poetry. 
There is in the Exeter Book an Old English poem of 87 lines, 
the so-called rime-poem, composed in this fashion. 

58. — 134. Harmonies clear of organ-pipes. Organs were 
introduced into church-worship in England by Theodore of 
Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury, toward the close of the 
seventh century. — 136. Music of the swan. Literally " the 


feathers of the swan." The Anglo-Saxons believed that the 
music of the swan was made, not with its voice, but with its 
feathers, as the wind swept through them. One of the Old 
English riddles describes this in striking fashion : 

" My robe is silent when I rest on earth 
Or run by the shore, or ruffle the pools ; 
But oft on my pinions upward I mount, 
Skyward borne on the buoyant air, 
High o'er the haunts and nouses of men 
Faring afar with the fleeting clouds. 
Then sudden my feathers are filled with music. 
They sing in the wind, as clear I sail 
O'er wave and wood, a wandering sprite." 

The words describing the sound of the singing feathers, are 
the same in the Phoenix passage, and in the riddle. The Latin 
poem has " olor moriens," in allusion to the fabled song of the 
dying swan. — 150. Worn with winters a thousand. The 
Germanic peoples counted years by winters, and days by 
nights. The phrase is therefore equivalent to " a thousand 
years old." Cf. Beowulf, p. 16, 1. 124. 

61. — 239. Taint of sin all taken away. Literally " sun- 
dered from sin." This does not seem to fit into bird-physiol- 
ogy, but is an anticipation of the Christian application. — 240. 
Like as when men, etc. This is one of the few elaborate similes 
found in Anglo-Saxon literature. 

62. — 262. A Man of God, etc. An allusion to Job xix : 26, 
" And though after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in 
my flesh shall I see God." In 1. 549 of the original, express 
mention is made of the " sayings of Job " (the word is giedding, 
a proverbial saying in alliterative speech, something to be 
quoted and handed down). Then follows, 11. 552-569, a free 
paraphrase of the Vulgate version of Job xix : 25-27. — 277. To 
the land of delight. " The popular consciousness of the Anglo- 
Saxons assimilated the idea of the Kingdom of heaven under the 
old epic figure of the tribal family-seat, the ancestral homestead, 
ef>el, eard. Neither of the chief Old German religious poems 
Off rid and Heliand nationalized the conception of the life here- 

41 8 NOTES 

after. To the poet of the Heliand it is a world of light which he 
is unable to picture in detail. (See also the emphasis on light as 
a characteristic of Heaven in the Younger Genesis of Old Saxon 
origin, /. D. S.) Only the Anglo Saxons created a genuine 
religious epic, a body of Christian poetry steeped in the 
popular consciousness of the Anglo-Saxon people" (Ehrisman, 
Zum Germanischen Friih Christentum, Beitrcege, Vol. 35. 1909). 

64. — 359. Leave hath granted us lucis auctor. The Phoe- 
nix poet, at the close of his poem, has adopted the peculiar 
device of linking together by means of alliteration Anglo-Saxon 
and Latin half-lines. In order to give the effect of this, the 
Latin half-lines have been retained in the translation. Ren- 
dered into English the passage reads : " Leave hath granted us 
the author of light, that here we might merit, by good deeds 
gain, joys in heaven ; that so we men might reach the greatest 
kingdom, and sit in exalted seats, live in delight of light and 
peace ; enter our home of blessed happiness, in bliss immortal ; 
see our Saviour, without ending, merciful and mild ; prolong his 
praises with laud everlasting, in bliss with the angels. Alleluia." 


The Wanderer 

The elegiac note, so characteristic of Old English poetry, 
finds its most poetic expression in The Wanderer. " Wyrd 
bib ful araed," all unavoided is the doom of destiny, — this is 
the keynote of the poem. There is only a faint suggestion of 
the Christian hope in the first two lines. Over the body of the 
poem lie the shadows of fatalism, and a profound sense of the 
instability of the earth and its joys. The Wanderer is preserved 
in the Exeter Book, and probably belongs to the first quarter of 
the eighth century. For a discussion of the critical problems 
involved, see W. W. Lawrence, Journal of Germanic Philology, 
Vol. IV, 1902, pp. 460-480, and the forthcoming edition of Old 
English Lyrics in the Belles Lettres Series. 


65. — 5. Hunted by Wyrd. A free rendering of the Old 
English, Wyrd bib ful araed, Wyrd shall be fully accom- 
plished. The fact that " Wyrd " and " God's Mercy " are 
mentioned together is nothing unusual (see Gnomic Verses, 
p. 75, 11. 4 and 5), and there is no need to assume that the 
introductory lines have been worked over by a Christian editor 
who had before him an earlier pagan poem. — 9. Often alone 
in the dark before dawning. Cf . the Norse Lay of Hamdir : 

"At the sad dawning, . . . 
When day is waxing 
And man's grief awakeneth 
And the sorrow of each one 
The early day quickeneth." 

— Morris' translation. 

66. — 23. Since long time ago my giver of bounty, etc. 
For the other side of the picture, see Widsith. 

67. — 63. The following ten lines in the original text are 
in the manner of the gnomic verses. Their omission from the 
English version does not necessarily imply that the translator 
considers them an interpolation, though their counsels of 
worldly wisdom, prudence, and a safe mediocrity certainly 
form a violent interruption to the uniform elegiac mood of the 
remainder of the poem. If it be objected that this is too sub- 
jective a test, the answer is that the value of a book of selec- 
tions and representative pieces depends after all on the quality 
of the " subjective taste " with which it is made. Where, as 
in the present case, there is good reason to doubt that a poem 
has been transmitted in its original form, the editor and 
translator, whose aim is literary rather than critical and ana- 
lytic, has a right to exercise the same judgment in the elimi- 
nation of parts of poems that he exercises in dealing with the 
body of Old English poetry. The bracketed figures indicating 
the elision will enable the critic easily to check the subjectivity 
of the translator. It should be added that Boer considers the 
whole passage 57-87 an interpolation; but in this he is influ- 
enced by his peculiar theory of the origin of the poem, and its 

420 NOTES 

relation to the Seafarer. — 71. Dead is their revelry, dust are 
the revellers. This is the far-heard cry of medieval poetry : 
" Ubi sunt qui ante nos in mundo fuere." Cf . Coleridge's 

" The knights are dust, their good swords rust, 
Their souls are with the saints, we trust," 

where the gray monotone of the Old English elegiac mood is 
overlaid with the colors of romantic medievalism. — 73. Some 
have gone down in ships on the sea. Literally : One did a 
bird carry off over the deep sea. I have followed Thorpe 
and Wuelker in interpreting " fugel " as " ship," though I am 
by no means convinced that the old poet may not have had in 
mind the same picture as Kipling : 

" Yes, the large birds o' prey 
They will carry us away 
An' you'll never see your soldier any more." 

— 84. Where is the warrior, where is the war-horse. A 

thousand years later Thomas Carlyle expresses the same 
mood in almost the same words : " That warrior on his strong 
war-horse, fire flashes through his eyes ; force dwells in his arm 
and heart : but warrior and war-horse are a vision, a revealed 
force, nothing more. ... A little while ago they were not; 
a little while, and they are not, their very ashes are not." 
(Sartor Resartus). — 86. The dream and the gleam that 
brightened the hall. " There was gleam and dream," says 
the Old English poet, in describing the " seledreamas," or 
joys of the hall. " Dream " in Old English meant joy. The 
modern sense is probably due to Scandinavian influence. 

68. — 103. All this earth's foundations utterly shall pass. 
The classic expression of this mood in English literature is 
Shakespeare's : 

" The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, 
The solemn temples, the great globe itself, 
Yea, all which it inherit shall dissolve, 
And like this insubstantial pageant faded, 
Leave not a rack behind." — Tempest. 


There follow five lines more in the Exeter Book, comprising a 
few maxims of practical wisdom, and a conventional Christian 
exhortation at the close. 

The Seafarer 

The Seafarer is a poem of 124 lines, of unknown date and 
authorship, preserved in the Exeter Book. It probably be- 
longs to the eighth century. The first part, 11. 1-64, describes 
the joys and hardships of the seafaring life, and is filled with 
high poetry. The second part contains practical exhortations, 
echoed from the gnomic verses, and is full of dreary prose. 
This second part, omitted in the translation, is almost cer- 
tainly a later addition, made by one or more monkish scribes. 
The German scholar Rieger first interpreted the Seafarer as a 
dialogue between an old sailor and a youth eager to go to sea. 
For the literature on the subject, and the divisions suggested 
by other critics, see W. W. Lawrence, Journal of Germanic 
Philology, 1902, Vol. IV, p. 461. The assignment of parts as 
given in our translation differs slightly from that of Rieger. 
Professor Lawrence agrees with Kluge that the latter portion, 
11. 646-124, is a pious appendix, but he tries to prove the first 
part the " lyric utterance of one man." It is clear that we have 
in the Seafarer the interplay of different and mutually exclu- 
sive lyric moods, suggested by life at sea. It is also clear that 
the same poet felt and expressed both moods, and that one 
mood is chiefly retrospective, based on experience, and the 
other prospective, based on anticipation. Whether the poet 
consciously dramatized these moods into an objective dialogue 
between an old sailor and a young man is a minor question. 
When a critic (Boer) says he cannot determine " whether the 
dialogue is carried on by two persons or whether a single man 
is talking with himself," we realize how perilously near to vain 
hair-splitting such a discussion may carry us. The main point 
is that the poem is lyric, not dramatic ; it presents the inter- 
play of lyric moods, and not the conflict of dramatic charac- 

422 NOTES 

ters. The main, and perhaps the only justification for print- 
ing the poem in dialogue form is that so far from doing violence 
to its essential meaning and poetic values, it rather brings these 
into relief. For a precisely analogous dialogue of moods, 
compare Walt Whitman's " Give me the Splendid Silent Sun," 
where the mood inspired by life in the country alternates 
and conflicts with that inspired by life in the city. 

Recently Ehrisman (Beitraege, 1909, Vol. 35, p. 212) has 
argued for a didactic unity of the whole poem. According to 
this interpretation, the pictures of the seafarer's life, with their 
contrasts of joy and sorrow, are introduced merely as a symbol 
of the Christian's life on earth, followed by the joys of heaven. 
It must be admitted that there is much in Anglo-Saxon Chris- 
tian poetry to encourage such a view, and I have no doubt 
that the author of the religious appendix understood the earlier 
sea-poem in this sense, and appropriated it to his symbolic 
Christian-mystical purposes, but this is far from proving the 
unimaginative, unoriginal, unemotional, homiletic addition to 
have been part of the original fine sea-piece, and in fact its 
raison d'etre and final purpose. Browning's sea-piece Am- 
phibian is a good example of a genuine blending of the real 
and the symbolic-mystical, in a uniform poetic key. 

68. — 1. True is the tale, etc. This line has more allitera- 
tions than the strict rule permits. 

69. — 11. Hunger's pangs, etc. Literally "Hunger from 
within bit to shreds the courage of me sea-wearied." Cf. 
Job. xviii:i2, "His strength shall be hunger-bitten." — 28. 
Little he dreams, etc. The translation omits the preceding 
line and a half, where there is an evident break or fault in 
transcription. — 36. The tumble and surge of seas tumultu- 
ous, etc. This and the following line are an expansion of the 
original " hean streamas, sealtyba gelac," the high seas, and 
the play of the salt billows. 

70. — 68. Give me the gladness of God's great sea. I 
have frankly taken a liberty with the original text here, and 
the literalist will call my version perversion. Peccavi fortiter ! 


At this point the homiletic addition is welded on to the genu- 
ine poem, and it is done in the following fashion : "As for me 
the joys of the Lord are more pleasing than this life-in-death, 
that passeth away on land." From here on to the end, the 
depth of poetic feeling shoals rapidly, and the rhythm breaks. 
The sympathetic translator who has felt the heave and lift of 
the ground-swell under him thus far is tempted to answer the 
pious homilist with his " dryhtnes dreamas," in Kipling's words : 

" Must we sing forever more 
On the windless glassy floor 
Take back your golden fiddles, and we'll beat to open sea." 

The Husband's Message 

The somewhat enigmatic character of this poem has given 
rise to various conjectures. Thorpe, the first editor of the 
Exeter Book, recognizing the similarity between the opening 
of the poem and many of the riddles, interpreted the first 
portion (to 1. 13 in the translation), as a separate riddle. Later 
critics perceived that the lines in question refer to the tablet of 
wood on which the husband's message is graven. Professor 
Blackburn {Journal of Germanic Philology, Vol. Ill) makes an 
ingenious hypothesis connecting riddle 61 of the Exeter Book 
with the Husband's Message, and combines them in his trans- 
lation under the title A Love Letter. Professor Tupper {Riddles 
of the Exeter Book) shows that riddle 61 is a genuine riddle, and 
that Professor Blackburn's arrangement, while " pretty and 
ingenious," ignores the true solution of riddle 61 as a reed or 
reed-flute. In translating the Husband's Message, the original 
text of which is full of gaps, I have been aided by Professor 
Blackburn's version. 

71. — 21. Earnestly urge thee overseas. Old English: 
lustum laeran, J?aet bu lagu drefde. Professor Blackburn 
renders : " Earnestly to urge thee to sail the sea." The next 
four lines follow Professor Blackburn's version closely. The 
Old English has : 

424 NOTES 

" sibban bu gehyrde on hlibes oran 
galan geomorne geac on bearwe, 
ne lset by bee sibban sibes getwaefan, 
lade gelettan lifgendne monn." 

Literally : " When thou hast heard on the cliff's brow, the 
mournful cuckoo sing in the grove, do not thou then let living 
man sunder thee from the journey, hinder thee from going." 

72. — 45. In the original there follow five more lines, con- 
taining runes which are supposed to be a cipher or password 
known to the recipient of the letter. 


In the Exeter Book is preserved a collection of some ninety 
riddles in alliterative verse. These riddles are descriptions or 
characterizations of objects, from which the object itself, 
which is not named, must be guessed. When the Old English 
poet, instead of naming the sea, called it the seals' bath, or 
instead of naming the ship, called it the ocean-stallion, he 
resorted to a familiar device of Germanic poetry known as the 
kenning. Now the Old English riddles are in essence expanded 
kennings : given the characteristics of an object, to guess what 
is meant. In the larger number of the riddles the objects are 
personified and describe themselves, and many of them attain 
a high degree of literary excellence. Their scope is wide. 
" Nothing human is deemed too high or low for treatment, and 
all phases of Old English existence are revealed in these poems ; 
so that they stand out as the most important contemporary 
contributions to the everyday life of their time." The read- 
ing and guessing of riddles of this kind seems to have been a 
favorite pastime with the Old English, and frequent refer- 
ences to the mead-hall in the riddles themselves make it likely 
that they were recited there along with lay and ballad. The 
Old English riddles have their parallels in Latin literature. A 
collection of one hundred Latin riddles, called the enigmas of 
Symphosius, was especially popular in England in the seventh 


and eighth centuries. Aldhelm (640-707), Bishop of Sherborne, 
imitated Symphosius in a collection of a hundred riddles in Latin 
hexameters. A third collection of Latin riddles is partly by 
Tatwine, who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 731, and 
partly by one Eusebius, of whom nothing is known except that he 
was an English Churchman and composed sixty enigmas, which 
with Tatwine's forty, made up the favorite one hundred of the 
riddle collections. While the riddles of the Exeter Book show 
the influence of these Latin models, they are in no sense mere 
imitations, but are full of fresh and close observation of life. 

The English riddles, unlike those in the Latin collections, are 
not supplied with answers, hence their solution has long exer- 
cised the ingenuity of students of Old English. While most 
of them have been satisfactorily solved, the meaning of some is 
still in doubt. The theory that Cynewulf wrote the riddles 
has been effectually disproved. While no author is known, 
they show the workmanship of a single poet, and are not to be 
viewed as a random collection. For the whole subject of 
Riddle Literature, and the problems raised by the Old English 
Riddles, see Professor Tupper's excellent introduction to his 
edition of the Riddles of The Exeter Book (Albion Series, 
Ginn and Co., 1910). 

The Book- Worm 

72. No. 48 of the Exeter Book. Perhaps more accurately, 
the Book Moth. The riddle is closely modelled upon No. 16 
in the collection of Symphosius, which is given for comparison : 

" Litera me pavit, nee quid sit litera novi. 
In libris vixi, nee sum studiosior inde. 
Exedi Musas, nee adhuc tamen ipsa profeci." 

The solution of the Latin riddle is given as " Tinea." 

73. No. 58 of the Exeter Book. This riddle has been va- 
riously interpreted as referring to swallows, or gnats, or star- 
lings. The analogies from Latin riddles, quoted by Professor 

426 NOTES 

Tupper, seem to favor the solution " swallows." In that case 
we ought to read in 1. 3 : 

Dark-coated, dusky-winged, darting about, 
and in the last line 

Gable-roofed towns ! Now tell me their name. 

The Shield 

No. 6 of the Exeter Book. " Illuminated Anglo-Saxon Mss. 
usually represent the warrior as armed with no other defensive 
weapons than shield and helmet. The shield, circular, or 
slightly oval in shape, is usually of linden-wood, sometimes 
covered with leather, with a metal-bound edge and in the 
center an iron boss, a small basin tapering at the top to a point 
and ending in a knob." — Tupper. 


No. 11 of the Exeter Book. This puzzling riddle has been 
responsible for much ingenious guesswork. Among the an- 
swers suggested are the following : Ocean-furrow, Wake of a 
Vessel, Water-bubble, Anchor, Water-lily ! Stopford Brooke 
{E. E. L., p. 179, note) suggests " Barnacle-Goose " as the 
solution. Giraldus Cambrensis, a medieval writer, gives the 
following description of this mythical bird : " Barnacle geese 
are like marsh-geese, but somewhat smaller. They are pro- 
duced from fir timber tossed along the sea, and are at first 
like gum. Afterwards they hang down by their beaks, as if 
from a seaweed attached to a timber, surrounded by shells in 
order to grow more freely. Having thus in process of time 
been clothed with a strong coat of feathers, they either fall 
into the water, or fly freely away into the air." Professor 
Tupper, in his note on the riddle, defends Brooke's interpre- 
tation ; and the additional evidence adduced by him seems now 
to me conclusive in favor of the Barnacle-goose. My own 
interpretation, made before I had seen his article, I have 
allowed to stand as a suggestion, although it will probably be 


thought to be too fanciful. The " streamers of white," 
" Hwite waeron hyrste mine," were suggested to me by the 
way in which the green seas are churned into wavy lines of 
white foam by the barnacled undersides of a sailing-vessel 
when she heels to the wind. These " streamers of white " 
can be observed wherever the tide sweeps between the bar- 
nacled pilings of an old dock or bridge. On the other hand 
the fact that " hyrste " is used of the feathers of the bird in 
the Swan riddle, favors the solution " Barnacle-Goose." 


74. No. 28 of the Exeter Book collection. Professor Tupper, 
in his note to this riddle (p. 132), quotes a number of interesting 
analogues. " Honey was more important to the ancients than 
it is to us, for it constituted the chief ingredient of mead, 
the time-honored beverage of the Aryan peoples." — Sharon 
Turner {Hist, of the Anglo-Saxons, Bk. VII, Chap. IV) cites 
an Anglo-Saxon canon against drunkenness: " This is drunk- 
enness, when the state of mind is changed, the tongue stam- 
mers, the eyes are disturbed, the head is giddy, the belly is 
swelled, and pain follows." Both passages cited by Tupper. 
Tacitus, long before, made the observation that the people of 
Germanic stock were addicted to the vice of drunkenness. 

The Anchor 

No. 17 of the Exeter Book collection. This riddle has a 
parallel in the Symphosius collection. 

" Mucro mihi geminus ferro conjungitur unco 
Cum vento luctor, cum gurgite pugno profundo. 
Scrutor aquas medias, ipsas quoque mordeo terras." 

(A double point is joined to me with hooked iron. With the 
wind I struggle, I battle with the surge profound. I scan the 
midmost waves, and bite the very bottom.) The Old English 
riddle offers a fine example of the way in which the poet's 

428 NOTES 

imagination vitalizes and dramatizes his object. The anchor 
has become a hero fighting desperately for the safety of the 
vessel committed to his charge. 

The Plough 

75. No. 22 of the Exeter Book collection. Professor Tupper 
has an interesting note on the ancient plough (p. 113), and 
gives references to pictures of ploughs in old Mss. " The 
illuminated Mss. are at variance regarding the form of the 
plough. In some the ploughs are of the rudest sort without 
wheels ; in others they have wheels (so in the pictures of the 
Caedmon Ms.). All these ploughs are drawn by oxen, urged 
by a goad — usually in the hands of an attendant herd." — 3. 
My master the farmer, old foe of the forest. The Old English 
has simply, " Har holtes feond," hoary foe of the forest, which 
has also been interpreted as referring to the ox that draws the 
plough. — 10. A curious prong, etc. The coulter and share 
of the plough. 

Gnomic Verses 

Proverbial sayings, maxims of wisdom, reflections based on 
experience, were popular among the Germanic peoples from 
the earliest times, and were handed down in the traditional 
alliterative form. Two compilations of gnomic verses are 
found in the Old English Ms. collections, one in the Cotton 
Ms., comprising sixty-six lines, and given entire in the trans- 
lation, the other in the Exeter Book, comprising two hundred 
six lines, from which a few extracts are given. But this by no 
means exhausts the store of " gnomic verse," in Old English 
literature. We find both the Epic and the Lyric verse of the 
Anglo-Saxons liberally interlined with gnomic sayings, sober 
moralizings which to our mind often interrupt the movement of 
the narrative or the flow of lyric feeling. No doubt the culti- 
vation of literature in the monasteries emphasized this preach- 
ing tendency ; but it would be a mistake to suppose that wher- 


ever our taste is offended by the intrusion of the gnomic genre, 
we are dealing with interpolated matter. In spite of the ap- 
parently loose and haphazard manner in which the gnomic 
sayings are strung together in our collections, there is a certain 
unity of structure and design. The verses are closely knit 
together by alliteration and " enjambment," i.e. the running 
over of the sense from one line into the next, unlike, in this 
respect, to the favorite distich or heroic couplet of eighteenth- 
century didactic verse. The end of one " saying " and the 
beginning of the next are generally locked together by allitera- 
tion, but the alliterative line is rarely a thought unit. It is 
interesting to observe how alliteration is thus made to assist the 
memory in linking together a series of apparently discon- 
nected sayings. The need of some such help probably ex- 
plains the large preponderance of " run-on " lines in these 
gnomic collections. Here and there we seem to have rem- 
nants of an earlier stanzaic form. In their swift panoramic 
survey of life, and their delight in a huddled array of concrete 
observation, there is a curious analogy between these gnomic 
verses and some of the poems of Walt Whitman. 

76. —41. Giant shall dwell on the fen. See the description 
of Grendel's haunt, Beowulf, 11. 1345 ff. (p. 13). 

77. — 54. The wolf shall hang. An outlaw was called a 
wolf. According to a widespread superstition, some men had 
the power of changing themselves into wolves. Such a man- 
wolf or " wer-wolf " was considered as especially dangerous, 
and as late as the seventeenth century men were tried in 
Europe for being wer-wolves. 


The Battle oe Brunnanburg 

This poem is in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year 937, 
and was evidently intended as a piece of historical narrative. 
^Ethelstan, grandson of Alfred the Great, and hereditary 


ruler of Wessex, had been acknowledged overlord of Mercians, 
Danes of Northumbria, Britons of Strathclyde, and Scots. 
But in 937 a conspiracy against him was formed by Constan- 
tinus, king of the Scots, who joined with the Danes and Strath- 
clyde Britons. The Norsemen of Ireland, under Anlaf or Olaf, 
aided their Northumbrian kinsmen, bringing their army over 
by sea from Dublin. The allies were defeated by /Ethelstan 
and his brother at Brunnanburg with great slaughter. The 
site of Brunnanburg is unknown. Among several places men- 
tioned, the most likely seems to be Bramber, near Preston in 
Lancashire, south of the Ribble. A great hoard of silver ingots 
and coins, none later than 930, was discovered near this place 
in 1847, and it has been suggested that this may have been 
the war-chest of the confederate army. (C. Hardwick, Lan- 
cashire Battlefields, quoted by Sedgefield in his introduction to 
the poem in the Belles Lettres Series.) Tennyson's fine version 
of the Battle of Brunnanburg, based on his son Hallam's prose 
translation, and the rhythms of the original, is well known, and 
is precious to all lovers of English poetry, as representing 
the effect which the old alliterative measure produced on 
the finest ear of the Victorian period. But Tennyson followed 
the prevailing custom of his day is considering the half-line 
of two beats, rather than the long line of four beats bound 
together by alliteration, as the metrical unit of the verse. 
As a result, Tennyson's version breaks up the alliterative 
scheme of Old English verse, and in so far fails to give the 
movement of the original. No one could undertake another 
version of Brunnanburg without showing the influence of 
Tennyson. Wherever I have been conscious of it, I have 
indicated it in the notes. The only reason for venturing on 
a new version of The Battle of Brunnanburg was to make it 
uniform in rhythm and alliterative plan with the other render- 
ings of this series. 

81. — 3. Edmund iEtheling. Three sons of Edward the 
Elder reigned in succession: ^Ethelstan, 925-940; Edmund, 
940-946; Eadred, 946-955. 


82. — 5. Broke the shield-wall, hewed the lindenwoods. So 

Tennyson. The original has " bordweall clufon, heowan heak>- 
linda," clove the shield-walls, hewed the battle-lindens. — 9. 
True to their blood. The blood of Alfred the Great. 
Gardiner says of Eadred, the youngest of /Ethelstan's brothers, 
" though sickly, he had all the spirit of his race." — 10. Their 
hoard and their home. Tennyson, " struck for their hoards and 
their hearths and their homes." The Old English has " Hord 
and hamas," hearth and homes. — n. Boat-crews. The 
regular name for the Danish invaders in the Chronicle is " scip- 
here," i.e. ship-army. — 15. Came in the morning-tide gliding 
o'er earth. Tennyson, " From when first the great sun-star 
of morning-tide . . . glode over earth." Old English, " Silvan 
sunne up on morgentid, glad ofer grundas." " Till the glorious 
creature sank to its setting." So Tennyson. Old English, 
" 0> >aet seo ae>ele gesceaft, sah to setle" ; literally, " till the 
glorious creature, sank to setting." — 19. Shot over shield. 
Old English, " ofer scyld sceoten." — 25. Who came with Anlaf 
across the water. I.e. from Dublin. Anlaf is the English form 
of Olaf. " There seem to have been two Olafs present at this 
battle : Anlaf Cuaran, son of Sihtric, iEthelstan's brother-in- 
law, and Anlaf, son of Godfrey, Sitric's brother." — 27. The 
Mercians formed part of the West-Saxon army. Edward the 
Elder had added the midland districts as far north as Chester 
in the West and the Humber in the East, to the West-Saxon 
dominion. His sister iEthehiasd, who aided him in making his 
conquest, was known as the Lady of the Mercians. — 28. hand- 
play. Old English, " handplegan." — 35. On the fallow flood. 
Old English, " on fealone nod." — 36. The Cunning Constanti- 
nus. Tennyson, " x\lso the crafty one, Constantinus." Old Eng- 
lish, " se frode," the wise old man. — 54. Dublin to seek. Dublin 
was the chief settlement of the Northmen in Ireland, and had 
been founded by the Viking leader Turgeis about 839 a.d. — ■ 
63. The haggard kite. Literally, the greedy hawk-of-war. 
It is possible that this is merely a descriptive epithet or kenning 
for the eagle. In that case we should translate : 

432 NOTES 

" Leaving behind the white-tailed eagle 
(Perched on the corpses), to prey on the carrion, 
Greedy war-hawk, and that gray beast, 
Wolf of the forest to feast on the slain." 

Cf. Kipling's " Birds of Prey " March : 

" The jackal an' the Kite 
'Ave an 'ealthy appetite 
An' you'll never see your soldier any more. 
The eagle and the crow 
They are waitin' ever so 
An' you'll never see your soldier any more." 

The Battle of Maldon 

The fight commemorated in this poem took place in the year 
991, and is thus described in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: " In 
this year came Unlaf with ninety-three ships to Stan (Folk- 
stone), and laid waste the country round about, and from there 
he went to Sandwich, and so on to Ipswich, and harried all the 
country. And then he came to Maldon, where the ealdorman 
Byrhtnoth with his force came to meet him and fought against 
him. And they slew the ealdorman there, and were masters of 
the field of battle, and afterwards peace was made with them." 
The famous Olaf Trygvasson, celebrated in Longfellow's 
Saga of King Olaf, was the Norse leader. The site of the battle 
is described by Freeman (Norman Conquest, Vol. I, p. 268) : 
" The fight of Maldon is the only battle of the days of ^Ethel- 
red, of which any minute details are preserved, and every 
detail throws light on something in the manners or military 
tactics of the age. The battle took place near the town of 
Maldon (in Essex), on the banks of the tidal river Panta, now 
called the Blackwater. The town lies on a hill ; immediately 
at its base flows one branch of the river, while another, still 
crossed by a medieval bridge, flows at a little distance to the 
north. The Danish ships seem to have lain in the branch 
nearest to the town, and their crews must have occupied the 
space between the two streams, while Brihtnoth came to the 
rescue from the north. He seems to have halted at the spot 


now occupied by the church of Heybridge, having both 
streams between him and the town." 

Byrhtnoth, alderman or ruler of Essex, under King ^Ethel- 
red the Redeless, had been a benefactor of the monastery of 
Ely, situated not far from the scene of the battle. In a Latin 
chronicle of Ely, containing a somewhat legendary account of 
the fight, we are told that the Abbot, " hearing of the issue of 
the battle, went to the field with some monks, and seeking out 
the hero's body bore it back to the church and buried it hon- 
ourably, placing a round lump of wax where the head had been." 

The author of our poem was in all probability one of the 
monks of Ely. He was either an eye-witness of the battle, or 
heard the details from one of the survivors. Though the 
beginning and the end of the poem were missing in the original 
Ms., there is no doubt that in the portion preserved, and for- 
tunately copied before the destruction of the Ms. by fire in 
1 73 1, we have practically the poem in its entirety, and it is 
therefore misleading to speak of the Battle of Maldon as a frag- 
ment, in the sense in which The Fight at Finnsburg, and W alder e, 
or even Judith, are fragments. 

For additional details see the introduction to W. J. Sedge- 
field's edition of the poem in the Belles Lettres Series (D. C. 
Heath and Co., 1904), H. W. Lumsden's article and spirited 
translation of the poem in Macmillan's Magazine, 55, p. 371, 
and Freeman's Norman Conquest, cited above. 

84. — 4. Showed them how they should hold their shields. 
" The fighting men of the fyrd or militia had but imperfect 
ideas of military discipline, and needed the personal instruction 
of their general even as to the proper holding and use of their 
arms" (Sedgefield) . — 7. Leaped from his steed. Freeman 
points out that battles were fought on foot in England before 
the Conquest, though horses were used to get to and from the 
battlefield. However, the ornamented saddle given by Hroth- 
gar to Beowulf is called the " Battle-seat " of the king. — 8. 
His hearth band, etc. His own retainers, or comitatus, who 
lived in his own hall, and were of his own household. Cf. Ger- 

434 NOTES 

mania, Chap. 7 ; " non casus neque fortuita conglobatio turmam 
aut cuneum facit, sed familiae et propinquitates." — 14. Send 
them tribute, yEthelred the Redeless inaugurated the bad cus- 
tom of buying off the Danes who were about to make raids. 
Money so paid was called Danegeld, i.e. Dane money. 

85. — 49. The breadth of the stream. Below Maldon, the 
Blackwater opens into a sea-inlet, where a strong tide runs. 

86. — 58. On the bridge. The bridge probably crossed 
only the deep channel, where the tide ran strong. The flats 
on either side would be bare or nearly bare at low tide, giving 
access to the bridge, but at high tide they would be covered. 
— 65. Kept the approach, etc. Literally, " would not make 
a flight of it at the ford." With Sedgefield I understand the 
" ford " to mean the shallow flats between either terminus of 
the bridge and the mainland. A ford is a place where " the 
crossing is shallow." The spirited fight on the bridge reminds 
us of Macaulay's ballad of Horatius. — 75. Byrhthelm's son. 
I.e. Byrhtnoth. — 81. West over Panta. — We should expect 
here " north over Panta," as from 1. 118 it appears that the 
Vikings were south of the English. If the main channel bent 
to the north at the point of crossing, the Northmen charging 
from the southern bank would be heading northwest, which the 
exigencies of alliteration might easily make west. — 83. Lin- 
denwood. A common kenning for shield. Cf. Charm for a 
Sudden Stitch, p. 2, 1. 5, and Brunnanburg, p. 82, 1. 6. 

87. — 99. Son of his sister. This tie of relationship was 
considered in Germanic antiquity as more intimate and binding 
than that of " brother's son." — 104. The thane, etc. Liter- 
ally, " bower-thane." The " bower " is the private sleeping 
apartment, as distinguished from the hall. When Beowulf 
fought Grendel in the hall, the Danes heard the noise in the 
" bowers." " Bower-thane " is therefore equivalent to the 
later chamberlain. — 120. He shoved with his shield. I.e. he 
caught the dart-point in his shield, but the shaft snapping short, 
splintered and wounded him. This seems to me a more, 
reasonable interpretation than Sedgefield's. In the Njals 


Saga is a similar situation, when " Gunnar gave the shield a 
twist as the sword pierced it, and broke it short off at the hilt " 
(Chap. 30). 

88. — 133. Now one of the pirates, etc. With this passage, 
describing the death of Byrhtnoth, should be compared the kill- 
ing of Douglas in the ballad of Chevy Chase. When Byrhtnoth, 
mortally wounded, no longer can grasp his sword, he still keeps 
encouraging his men. So when Earl Douglas is stricken in at 
the breast-bane, he cried : 

" Fight ye, my merry men, whiles ye may, 
For my life-days be gane." 

— 147. Broad and Blood-marked. Literally, brown-edged, — 
one of the conventional epithets for swords in Anglo-Saxon 
poetry and in the ballads. " Broad and brown-edged " is the 
sword of Grendel's dam in Beowulf. The epithets may refer 
to the rusty blood-stains purposely left on the sword-blade as 
marks of ancient valor and faithful service. Old English poe- 
try is peculiarly sparing of color-epithets. Brown, gray, fallow, 
dun, are the only colors that appear frequently. Even in the 
ideal landscape of the Phoenix, and in the description of the 
birds' gorgeous plumage, the colors are suggested rather than 
described. — 153. The hoar-headed warrior. Probably more 
than a mere conventional epithet. In the Life of Oswald, 
Archbishop of York, written not long after the battle of Mal- 
don, Byrhtnoth's end is thus described : " With his right arm 
he dealt blow on blow, unmindful of the swan-like whiteness of 
his head. . . . With his left arm he defended himself, forget- 
ting his bodily weakness, for his prayers and good -deeds sus- 
tained him." The prayer of Byrhtnoth breathes the atmos- 
phere of the monastery, rather than of the battle-field, and 
seems out of keeping with the warlike temper of the rest of 
the poem. The Chevy Chase poet knew better : 

" For Witherington my heart was sore 
That ever he slain should be, 
For when both his legs were hewn in two 
Yet he kneeled and fought on his knee." 

436 NOTES 

89. — 164. The fiends of hell. It is not necessary to under- 
stand this of the Norsemen, though the epithet is one that the 
author would be likely enough to apply to the heathen Danes, 
whom the English monks had good reason to hate, and whom 
they may very well have regarded as " in direct league with the 
devil," as Sedgefield suggests. It would be more in keeping 
with the spirit of the poem if Byrhtnoth, like Beowulf, had 
thought of the fate of his people, rather than of his own soul, 
at this juncture. — 187. ^thelred's earl. I.e. earl of King 
yEthelred, the West-Saxon ruler, 968-1016. — 195. Remember 
the time, etc. Cf. Beowulf's last fight, and the speech of Wig- 
laf, p. 24, 11. 86-136, and Professor Gummere's note on the 

91. — 236. Leaderless, lordless, etc. "A valuable survival 
of this taunting of men who broke the oath of loyalty is the cry 
of the sworn-brother in Bewick and Graham: 

" In every town that I ride through 
They'll say — ' There rides a brotherless man.' " 


— 249. .3£scferth. He appears to have been an Englishman 
held by the Danes as a hostage. Managing to escape, he joined 
his own people against the enemy. 

92. — 278. He lay by his lord, a loyal thane. Professor 
Gummere {Old English Epic, p. 136) quotes an interesting 
passage from Saxo Grammaticus, illustrating the loyalty of 
thanes to their lord. Hialto says : " Sweet it is to repay the 
gifts received from our lord ... let us do with brave hearts 
all the things that in our cups we boasted ... let us keep the 
vows we swore." And Bjarki answers : " I will die overpowered 
near the head of my slain captain, and at his feet thou also shalt 
slip on thy face in death, so that whoso scans the piled corpses 
may see in what wise we rate the gold our lord gave us " 
Saxo's Latin prose, by his own account, is based on an old 
Danish song. — 282. Wistan. He is called Thurstan's son, 
but in the next line he is referred to as " Wigeline's bearn,' ; 


i.e. the child of Wigelin. There seems to be some confusion 
here. — 296. Heart must be keener. These words of Byrht- 
wold contain the essence of old Germanic heroism : fearless 
valor and a loyalty that keeps faith to the end and prefers 
death to dishonor. 





How Layamon wrote his Book 

With this account of himself, of his book, and of the authori- 
ties he used in compiling it, Layamon begins his long poem of 
the Brut, or Chronicle. The passage, being in the nature of a 
general preface, or introduction, is thus fairly complete in itself. 

Almost all that is known about Layamon is contained in 
these few lines. There is a confiding simplicity in the poet's 
artless account of himself, which gives it a very human and 
therefore a lasting interest. 

Layamon lived in northern Worcestershire, on the west 
bank of the Severn. The Arnley, or Earnly of which he speaks 
is the place now called Arely Regis, or Arely Kings. He is 
generally believed to have been a priest in the parish church 
there, and his declaration that he " read bookes " there is com- 
monly supposed to mean that he read the services at the 
" noble Church " of which he has just spoken. The words 
" read bookes " may, however, be understood in a wider and 
more obvious sense, and they may possibly be related to Laya- 
mon's subsequent account of his studies and his bookish tastes, 
rather than to what has gone before. 

438 NOTES 

Layamon wrote at the beginning of the thirteenth century 
(cir. 1205). His poem, a chronicle-history of Britain, is 
founded mainly on the Brut of the French poet Wace. It con- 
tains over 30,000 lines ; and while it has no value as history, 
it is the longest and most memorable English poem of its 
time. In language it shows remarkably few traces of French 
influence, and it is notable as marking that revival of native 
literature and spirit which led to their ultimate triumph in the 
fourteenth century. 

96. — 16, 17, 18. Saint Baeda, — Saint Albin, — thebless'd 
Austin. Layamon's statement concerning the books he 
used in compiling his Brut seems to be the result of a mis- 
understanding on his part. The English book was evidently 
the Anglo-Saxon translation of Bede's Ecclesiastical History of 
the English People, made by King Alfred. The book in Latin 
was Bede's original work, which Layamon seems to have 
thought a different book, written jointly by St. Augustine (" the 
fair Austin ") and Albinus (Saint Albin). Albinus, who was 
abbot of the monastery of St. Augustine at Canterbury, as- 
sisted Bede in the compilation of his work. It is evident that 
collaboration by Augustine and Albinus was impossible, as 
the former died in 604, and the latter in 732. 


In Praise of England 

The poem known as Robert of Gloucester's Riming Chroni- 
cle is a history of England from the earliest or mythical pe- 
riod to the latter part of the thirteenth century. It is believed 
that the entire work was composed in the Abbey of Gloucester, 
but it is thought probable that Robert (presumably a monk 
in the Abbey) only wrote the latter part of the poem, i.e. from 
the accession of Stephen (1135). In any case the work was 
completed {cir. 1297) about a hundred years after Layamon 
wrote his Brut. 


The lines In Praise of England are interesting as a crude 
anticipation of those stirring tributes to that " royal seat of 
Kings " which the lover of English poetry will readily recall. 
The oft-quoted passage, here entitled Norman and English, 
is valuable for the light it throws on the state of the language 
at that critical stage of its growth. (See also Lyndsay's 
Apology for Writing in the Vulgar and Maternal Tongue, p. 273, 
supra, and note.) 


The War Songs of Lawrence Minot are justly called " the 
most important national poems of the first half of the four- 
teenth century." Rough and vigorous, they are full of a gen- 
uine, but bitterly partisan, patriotism. " Minot," says a 
recent writer, " seems to have been a professional gleeman, 
who earned his living by following the camp and entertainng 
soldiers with the recitation of their own heroic deeds. It is 
possible, however, that his skill in versification may have led to 
his promotion to the post of minstrel to the King [Edward III], 
and that he held some recognized office about the court." 
The victories and other events which Minot celebrates all 
belong to the interval between 1333 and 1352. 

The Battle of Halidon Hill 

The Battle of Halidon Hill was fought in 1333. Edward 
III, who was besieging Berwick, attacked and completely 
routed a Scotch force under Sir Archibald Douglas, which had 
come to relieve the town. Berwick passed into the hands of 
the English, and has remained English territory to this day. 
Eleven of the Songs, or political ballads, of Minot have been 

99. — 44. Earl Moray. John Randolph, third Earl of 
Moray, who died in 1346. He was one of the strongest sup- 
porters of the young king of Scotland, David II. In 1332, 
at Annan, Moray defeated Edward Balliol, who had previously 

440 NOTES 

been crowned King of Scotland as the creature of Edward III. 
In the battle of Halidon Hill, Moray commanded a division of 
the Scotch army, and was one of the few Scottish nobles to 
escape and afterwards to flee to France. He later returned to 
Scotland, and continued his activity in the interest of Scottish 
independence. — 47. Philip Valois. Philip VI, king of France 
1328-1350, who, in the interests of France, became an ally 
of Scotland against their common enemy, England. 

100. — 79. Sir John Comyn, surnamed The Red, one of the 
rivals of Bruce to the throne of Scotland after Edward Bal- 
liol's renunciation. He was murdered on the altar steps of the 
Franciscan church at Dumfries by Bruce and his followers, 1306. 

Prayer for King Edward 

This prayer is taken from the impressive beginning of the 
third of Minot's songs. It is one of those dealing with the war 
against France, and tells how King Edward went to join his 
allies in Flanders. 


This song is apparently one of the ancient ballads, or dance- 
songs, of the Scottish people. It is found in an old chronicle, 
the Brut of Engelonde (cir. 1350), where we are told, by way of 
preface, that " the maidens made a songe therefore in that 
cuntre of Kynge Edwarde of Engelonde, and in this manner 
thei songe." Then follows the song. Robert Fabyan (d. 
1513) also gives it in his Chronicle. " This songe," he says, 
" was after many dayes sungyn in daunces, in carolles of ye 
maydens and mynstrelles of Scotlande, to reproofe and dys- 
dane of Englyshmen, with dyverse other which I over passe." 
Marlowe ingeniously introduces it into his tragedy of Edward 
II (Act II, sc. 2), after Mortimer has reproached the King 
for his defeat at Bannockburn ; and Lancaster, adding his 
taunt, goes on to repeat the song that has been made on Eng- 
land's shame. 


Lan. — " And thereof came it, that the fleering Scots 
To England's high disgrace have made this jig." 

— Maidens of England, etc. 

Henderson says {Scottish Vernacular Literature, p. 18), "The 
phrases ' With heve-a-lowe ' and ' With rumbylowe ' are found 
both in later Scotch and English poetry. They here probably 
indicate the occurrence of a dance movement emphasised by 
special gestures or the beating of musical instruments." 



John Barbour was born about 1320. He was Archdeacon of 
Aberdeen for thirty-eight-years, and he died in 1396, or a few years 
before his great English contemporary, Chaucer. His poem The 
Bruce (which resembles an epic or a romance rather than a 
Chronicle) deals, as its name implies, with the adventurous career, 
the triumph and death of the great national hero of Scotland. 
But, from the very nature of its subject, it is even more than a 
tribute to a single hero, its underlying theme is the liberation 
of Scotland from her foreign oppressor. Its twenty books 
are, after all, but one long patriotic song of victory, and it 
may fairly be said that the main theme and essential spirit of 
the poem find their concentrated expression in the splendid 
and still familiar outburst in praise of Freedom. 


The romance of Sir Orpheo dates from about the beginning 
of the fourteenth century. It belongs to that group of poems 
known as " Breton lays " ; that is, it is one of a number of 
short rhymed narrative poems of Celtic origin, which were 
current in medieval England. Its Breton origin is suggested 
in the opening lines, which form a prelude to the story. Sir 
Orpheo has something of the simplicity, directness, and even 
the measure of the old ballads, and in fact it has reappeared in 

442 NOTES 

Shetland in ballad form, with a Norse refrain. (Child, Ballads, 
I. No. 19.) The classical story of Orpheus is transformed in the 
romance into a medieval fairy story, and the gloomy realm of 
Pluto becomes a beautiful land of faerie, not unlike that which 
Thomas the Rhymer was compelled to visit, or that magic 
spot from which young Tamlane was released. 

Three versions of this poem have been preserved. One 
(Harl. Ms. 3810) has been edited by Ritson {Metrical Ro- 
mances, II, p. 248) ; another (Auchinleck Ms.) has been printed 
by Laing ; and the third (Ashmole Ms. 61) is included in Halli- 
well's Illustrations of the Fairy Mythology of the Midsummer 
Night's Dream. The first named of these versions, being shorter 
than the others, has been generally followed in the present 
modernization of the poem, but in several instances passages 
from the text last mentioned have been incorporated. 

103. — 19. Glee and Game. An example of the frequent 
combination of synonymous words. Game is here used in the 
sense of mirth, delight, amusement. 

104. — 47. Crassens. The Auchinleck Ms. reads Traceyns 
and goes on to explain the name by asserting that Traciens was 
the ancient name for Winchester : 

" For Winchester was cleped then ; 
Traciens withouten mo." 

I can find no authority, however, for this assertion. 


A vast number of romantic stories, some in prose, others 
in verse, were popular during the Middle Ages. War, chivalric 
adventure, love, and religion entered in varying proportions 
into these stories, and helped, or often combined, to give them a 
peculiar tone or characteristic atmosphere. These romances, 
indeed, taking form, as they did, in the ages of religious faith, 
chivalry, and romantic love, were full of the spirit of their 
time, and as a whole are among the most extensive, important, 
and characteristic creations of the Middle Ages in literature. 


The Xormans brought many romances into England, and in 
the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, when English began 
to gain in literary importance, some of these Xorman or French 
romances were retold or imitated in English. We can form 
but little idea of the volume and importance of this literature 
of romance from the few selections here given. These selec- 
tions have been introduced for their intrinsic value, and in order 
that the romances might not be left entirely unrepresented. 
But as long narrative poems cannot be really known through 
detached fragments, the romances cannot be adequately rep- 
resented in a book of this scope and character. 

The romance of Sir Gawayne and the Green Knight belongs 
to that large and important group of romance which deals with 
the stories of King Arthur and his knights. It must be re- 
membered that in the earlier Arthurian stories Sir Gawayne, 
the King's nephew, was one of the noblest and greatest knights 
of the Round Table, not unworthy to stand beside Sir Percival, 
and utterly different from the despicable Sir Gawayne of Mal- 
lory's Morte D' 'Arthur or Tennyson's Idylls. 

The authorship of the romance of Sir Gawayne and the Green 
Knight has often been discussed, but remains a matter of specu- 
lation. From the dialect in which the poem is written, and 
from various other indications, it appears that its unknown 
author lived on the Welsh border, possibly in Cheshire, or in 
Lancashire. We possess three other poems. Cleanness, Pa- 
tience, and The Pearl (see p. 145, supra), all written in the same 
dialect, and composed about the same time as Sir Gawayne. 
Although these three poems are not romances, they have many 
things in common with Sir Gawayne, so that it is extremely 
probable that all four poems are the work of the same author. 
(See note on The Pearl, p. 454.) 

Sir Gawayne was written about 1360-13 70, or about the time 
Chaucer made his first visit to Italy, and when Langland was 
engaged on his first draught of Piers the Ploughman. It is 
commonly given the highest place among English metrical 
romances, and Gaston Paris does not hesitate to call it " the 

444 NOTES 

jewel of English medieval literature" (Z,' Histoire Liter air e de 

la France, Vol. XXX). 

The Seasons 

I repeat here what I have said elsewhere on this passage : 
" There is also an appreciation of the various aspects of Nature 
remarkable in that early time. Three hundred years before 
Thomson published the Seasons, the poet of Sir Gawayne 
packed into thirty lines the germ of Thomson's poem. The 
changes wrought by the successive sea-sons are brought before 
us by a few suggestive details." 

Sir Gawayne' s Journey 

119. — 1 . Logres, or Loegres, the name given to England (or 
to that part of Britain which afterwards became England) by 
Geoffrey of Monmouth. According to Geoffrey, Brutus divided 
Britain among his three sons, Locrin, Albanact, and Kamber. 

Locrin, the eldest, possessed the middle part of the island, 
called afterwards from his name Loegria (or Logres)." Kamber 
had Wales (hence called Kambria, or Cambria), and Albanact, 
Scotland (hence Albania, the ancient name of the Scottish 
Highlands). {Hist, of Brit., Bk. II, Chap. I). — n. Wirral's 
wilderness. Wirral is the Old English or Anglo-Saxon Wir- 
heal, the name of the land (peninsula) between the Dee and the 
Mersey. See Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, under years 894 and 895. 


Poema Morale 

The Moral Ode, or Poema Morale, is " a sermon in verse." 
The poet, after giving some account of himself by way of in- 
troduction, bids every one to lay up in heaven the treasures 
of good works. He pictures the pains of hell and the joys of 
heaven, and prays that all may be brought to that bliss. 


" Christ grant we such a life may lead or have here such an end, 
That we may thither come at last when we from hence shall 

Professor Manly calls the Poema Morale " the first impor- 
tant English poem after the Norman Conquest" {English 
Poetry, Introduction), and Ten Brink says that it " originated, 
perhaps as early as the reign of Henry I " (1100-1135); but 
Morris places it not earlier than 1 1 70, or in the time of Henry II. 
It is written in a southern dialect, and contains about four 
hundred lines. As in one passage the rivers Avon and Stour 
are spoken of together (" Nor may salt water quench it nor 
Avon stream nor Stour "), it has been suggested that the poem 
was composed by some one who lived near the junction of the 
Avon and Stour at Christ-Church, Hampshire. " There was 
a monastery," says Morris, " at Christ-Church at an early 
period, which was converted into a priory of St. Austin's 
Canons in 1150. This locality would suit very well." {Speci- 
mens of Early English, Pt. I, p. 354.) 


The Ormulum, so called " because that Orm it wrought," 
was composed about the beginning of the thirteenth century. 
Orm was a monk in some Augustinian monastery. He lived in 
the northeastern part of the Midland region, possibly near the 
southern border of Lincolnshire. The object of his book, and 
the circumstances which led him to compile it, are given in the 
Dedication to his thrice-brother Walter. His purpose was to 
make a paraphrase in English verse " of all the Gospels in 
the ecclesiastical year as arranged in the Mass-book " (that 
is, of two hundred and forty-three passages of Scripture) and 
to supplement each of the Scriptural selections with explana- 
tory comments and appropriate religious instruction. About 
thirty of these paraphrases, with the accompanying sermons, 

446 NOTES 

survive. Possibly the work was never completed, possibly the 
lacking portions may have been written and lost. It is true 
that the fragment of Orm's industry which remains consists 
of over ten thousand lines, but as the patient monk did not 
need to say anything original, nor dream, apparently, of saying 
anything poetic, it may be that he plodded on to the end of his 
enormous task. The Ormulum is one of the many works in- 
tended to bring the Bible home to the mind and conscience of 
the English people, to be placed, by virtue of its intention, 
with the miracle-plays and the Cursor Mundi. 


A Love Letter 

Thomas of Hales (or Hailes) in Gloucestershire, was a 
Franciscan monk, who lived in the early part of the thirteenth 
century. Pie studied in Oxford and Paris, and is said to have 
been a doctor of theology at the Sorbonne. He was famous for 
his learning in Italy and France as well as in England, but 
beyond this fact little is known of his life. He was favorably 
known, either personally or by reputation, to Adamus Maris- 
cus, or Adam de Marisco, a learned brother of the Franciscan 
order, who taught theology and excelled in mathematics 
(Monumenta Franciscana, ed. J. S. Brewer, p. 395). It is 
possible that Hales is the place in Gloucestershire where in 
1246 Hayles (holy) Abbey was founded by Richard, Earl of 
Cornwall, second son of John, King of the Romans and Em- 
peror of Germany, brother of Henry III, in accordance with a 
vow made by Richard when in danger at sea. The Abbey was 
dedicated with much pomp and ceremony, and Richard is said 
to have remarked, " I wish it had pleased God that all my great 
expenses in my castle of Wallingford had been as wisely 
employed." The occasion which prompted Thomas of Hales 
to the composition of his poem, The Love Rune (that is, the 
Love Counsel, or Love Letter), is set forth in the first stanza. 


It is a letter of advice written in response to the request of 
a maiden dedicated to God. The King Henry referred to 
(11. 77, et seq.) is Henry III (1216-1272). Contempt for the 
vanishing pleasures of this present world, rapturous anticipa- 
tion of the lasting joys of the world to come, and the exaltation 
of a mystical and spiritual love above any earthly passion, all 
these themes, so congenial to the medieval mind, so intensely 
and characteristically medieval in their spirit, find utterance in 
the poem. (See Morris, Old English Miscellanies, pp. 93 etseq.) 

124. — 41. The spirit of this stanza is remarkably close 
to that of Dunbar's poem, the Lament for the Makers, p. 264 
and note. 

The name of Dido, which appears in the original stanza, has 
been omitted in the modernization. 


As its title tells us, this poem is a debate, or controversial 
dialogue, between the body and the soul, the warring parts of 
man's nature which St. Paul speaks of as " the flesh " and 
" the spirit." In The Debate, as in the writings of St. Paul 
{Gal. v: 17), these two are represented as " contrary the one 
to the other." In the Middle Ages this distrust of the body 
was carried to an extreme, and led to those excesses of asceti- 
cism with which we are all familiar. The spirit which drew the 
hermit to his cave, or St. Simeon Stylites to his pillar, found 
many expressions in medieval literature (see, e.g., The Prick of 
Conscience of the English hermit, Richard Rolle, and contrast 
with it Browning's Rabbi ben Ezra, particularly stanzas VIII and 
XII). Nevertheless, this old idea of the inherent incompati- 
bility of body and soul, and of their natural antagonism, reap- 
pears in the nineteenth century, finding expression in the terms 
of modern science, in Tennyson's poem, By an Evolutionist. 

By virtue of its controversial form, The Debate of the Body 
and the Soul belongs to an important class of poems, examples 
of which are found in many parts of Western Europe. Accord- 

448 NOTES 

ing to Ten Brink, these " disputes," or " debates," first " ap- 
peared in the poetry of the Troubadours, as true poetical con- 
troversies between two opponents ; later, by the North 
French, who had been preceded by the Middle Latin poets in 
this, in the form of debates between different classes personi- 
fied, or different animals, between wine and water, body and 
soul, sometimes in dramatic, sometimes in epic form." As 
direct dialogue, the debates, strifes, disputations, or whatever 
they may be called, were important in the development of the 
drama {Early English Literature, 215). In the dispute be- 
tween The Owl and the Nightingale (p. 136), we have another 
notable example of this class of poem. 

The Debate of the Body and the Soul is one among a number 
of poems on the same theme. It is founded upon a Latin 
poem of the twelfth century, known as the Vision of Phili- 
bert, which may have been written in England. But The 
Debate, to quote Professor G. L. Kittredge, " is by no means a 
mere translation of the Latin Vision. It handles the material 
with great freedom, and far surpasses the original. Indeed, it is 
incomparably the best embodiment of the theme that can be 
found in any literature." (Introduction to The Debate of the 
Body and the Soul, modernized by F. J. Child.) 

The Debate was written in the latter part of the thirteenth 
century; its author is not known. The Vision of Philibert 
{Visio Fulberti) is printed by Wright in his Latin Poems com- 
monly attributed to Walter Mapes. A free but smooth and 
poetical rendering of The Debate has been made by Sir Theo- 
dore Martin. It is given in Linow's Erlanger Beitrage zur 
englischen Philologie, Vol. I. The version of Professor F. J- 
Child, already referred to, is more literal. It has been reprinted 
by Professor Kittredge with an introduction. (Boston, 1908.) 

128. — 25. The original first four lines of this stanza are : 

" Whare ben al bine worWiche wede, 
pine somers wij? riche bed, 
pi proude palfrais and >i stede, 
pat f>on about in dester led ? " 


The author is here apparently suggesting the former state and 
luxury of the Body, by picturing a typical procession or 
progress of a knight with his attendants from one town or 
castle to another. The palfreys were the horses upon which 
the knight and his companions rode ordinarily ; the battle- 
steed was mounted when an encounter seemed imminent. 
The pack-horses, or sumpters, would carry the baggage, includ- 
ing in all probability the knight's pallet and " rich " bedding. 
— 38. Sendals. Sendal was " a silken material used in the 
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries for rich dresses, flags, 
pennons, etc." — Cent. Diet. (See note 202, 440.) 

134. — 208. Heckle. An instrument consisting of a board 
in which are inserted sharp pins or spikes, used for dressing 
flax or hemp by splitting and straightening out the fibres. 
See Burns' Address to the Toothache. — 229. Pris. The note 
of the horn blown at the taking or killing of the deer, in hunt- 
ing. From the French prendre. 


This poem is a deservedly famous example of the poems of 
strife, or controversy (see p. 448, supra). It dates from the 
early half of the thirteenth century, probably before 1227, and 
is written in the dialect of the south of England. Moreover, 
Master Nicholas of Guilford, to whom the rival birds finally 
agree to submit their contention, lived in the south, at Por- 
tisham, a town in Dorsetshire about seven miles southwest of 
Dorchester. Some have thought that Nicholas of Guildford 
was himself the author of the poem, but as he is mentioned in 
the third person and referred to in complimentary terms, it is 
more probable that it was written by some one who knew 
Nicholas and who took this opportunity of paying a tribute 
to his friend. 

The most obvious and natural interpretation of the poem 
is that it presents the familiar struggle between two antago- 
nistic ideals of life, the ideal of the refined, joyous, pleasure- 
lover, and the ideal of the ascetic, — the " Cavalier " and 

450 NOTES 

the " Puritan " of later times. " It is the old conflict," says 
Ten Brink, " between beauty, brilliancy, youth, cheerfulness, 
and a serious, gloomy, sullen old age, between pleasure and 
asceticism" {Early English Literature, I. 215). The nightin- 
gale contemptuously tells the owl that one song from her mouth 
is " better than all thy kind could ever do." The owl replies : 
" Dost thou think they {i.e. those that are saved) so easily 
come into God's Kingdom all singing? No, no, they must feel 
that they must get forgiveness of their sins by long weeping, 
before they may ever come there. Therefore I advise that 
men be ready, and more weep than sing, they who strive for 
the presence of the Heavenly King." 

We are not told in whose favour Master Nicholas decided 
the dispute, but the poet's sympathy seems to go out to the 
nightingale, and the unlovable side of the owl's character is 
presented with vigour and apparently grim enjoyment. Pro- 
fessor Schofield remarks that the poem " seems to contain a 
modern, a personal note, revealing an inner struggle of the 
author with his conflicting tendencies, aesthetic and moral, which 
has ended in a just appreciation of the value of each." {English 
Literature from the Norman Conquest to Chaucer, p. 428). 

According to a more recent view, the " ultimate intention 
of the poem is not to present dramatically conflicting ideals 
of life, but to suggest (or advocate) the introduction of a new 
and more secular kind of poetry. It is, in other words, the 
expression of a spirit of revolt against the then prevalent 
tendency of poetry to occupy itself too exclusively with re- 
ligious subjects. (Professor Atkins in the Cambridge History 
of English Literature, I, 247-248, 266.) It cannot be denied 
that this novel interpretation, if accepted, goes far to rob the 
poem of its breadth of interest and permanent value. Its 
theme, if we accept Professor Atkins' view, ceases to be funda- 
mental and human, and becomes little more than the wrangle 
of rival schools of poetry, a literary matter of temporary or 
purely historic interest. See also, Dale's National Life and 
Character in the Mirror of Early English Literature, p. 195. 


137. — 40. Harsh sputtering. It is difficult to reproduce 
the discordant power of this passage. The lines in the original 
are : 

" Me luste bet speten, >ane singe 
Of bine fule }o}elinge." 

That is : "I like better to spit, than to sing, because of thy vile 

Gogeling (or gogelinge) (which survives in the verb guggle, v. 
Cent. Diet.) is descriptive of a gurgling sound in the throat, it is 
akin to gargle. — 48. Trill : 

"Think you in song I have no skill, 
Merely because I cannot trill? " 

Writelinge, the word here translated trill, means, according 
to Morris, a style of singing adorned with " shakes and flour- 
ishes." The owl feels that he can sing in his own more dignified 
way, even if he cannot perform such feats of vocal agility as 
the nightingale. Writelinge is apparently connected with the 
Anglo-Saxon word wri&an, to writhe, or to twist, and may carry 
with it a tinge of contempt. 


In Praise of Women 

Robert Mannyng of Brunne has been called " the most 
eminent representative of the literature of Lincolnshire in 
the first half of the fourteenth century " (Ten Brink, Early 
English Literature, I. 297). He was born at Brunne (now 
Bourne), a town about ten miles north of the southern border 
of Lincolnshire, and entered the priory (some six miles from 
his native place) of Sempringham, then the chief seat of a 
religious order called the Gilbertines. His poem Handlyng 
Synne was begun, as he tells us in the Introduction, in 1303. 
It is founded upon the Manuel des Pechez, a poem written in 
French by an Englishman, William of Wadington, in York- 

452 NOTES 

shire. Mannyng thus ingenuously explains the title of his 
poem : 

" Men clepen W boke ' Handlyng Synne.' 
In Frenshe J?er a clerk hyt sees, 
He clepyft it ' Manuel des Pecches,' 
' Manuel ' ys ' handlyng wyj> hende ' ; 
' Peeches ' ys synne, y undyrstende 
pese twey wurdys bat beyn otwynne, 
Do hem togedyr, ys ' Handlyng Synne.' " 

The poem treats of the Ten Commandments, the Seven 
Deadly Sins, the Seven Sacraments, and of other religious or 
moral themes, and constantly enlivens doctrinal instruction 
and reproof with appropriate stories, or anecdotes, chosen to 
illustrate the didactic part of the work, and enforce its lessons 
by example. For, he says, he has made his poem for those who 
love to hear rimes and stories over their ale, and who are 
prone to fall into sin. 

Mannyng, it has been well said, " combines the trouvere 
with the homilist," and Handlyng Synne is not only valuable 
for the light it throws on the thought and social conditions 
of the time, but for its spirited narratives, and even its gleams 
of poetry. The lines here entitled In Praise of Women show 
the author's poetic power at its best. 

Mannyng also translated a Chronicle of England out of 
French into English verse. 


The object and character of this long and important poem 
are sufficiently set forth in the Prologue (p. 140). It is enough 
to say that it was written in the North (some think in the Dio- 
cese of Durham, some in north Lancashire), and that its author 
lived in the thirteenth or, perhaps, the beginning of the four- 
teenth century. It was written in English, the language of 
the masses, " for the love of English folk," and so bore its 
part in that revival of the old national language and literature 


which has already been referred to. (See Robert of Glouces- 
ter's In Praise of England, p. 96, and Lyndsay's Apology for 
Writing in the Vulgar and Maternal Language,^ .273, and notes.) 

140. — 3. Alisaundere, etc. This list includes some of the 
most famous and important groups or cycles of romance, those 
on Alexander, on Brut, or Brutus, the supposed founder of 
Britain, and on Arthur and his knights. The fight of Charles 
(Charlemagne) and Roland against the Saracens, the battle 
of Roncevalles, is described in the famous French romance, 
Chanson de Roland. 

141. — 17. Tristrem and Ysote. Tristan (Tristrem, or 
Tristram) and Isolde (or Iseult). Tristrem was famous as 
knight, hunter, harper, and lover. His tragic story has often 
been told, from the days of its medieval beginnings to the time 
of Wagner, Matthew Arnold, and Swinburne. (See Schofield, 
English Literature from the Norman Conquest to Chaucer, pp. 
201 ff.) — 19. Joneck. A hero or character in one of the 
early romances, which has apparently not been preserved. 
In other versions of the poem (Gottingen and Trinity Mss.), 
Joneck becomes King lonet and Kyng Ion respectively. — 
19. Ysambrase, another popular figure who is the subject of a 
romance in " Thornton Romances." (Emerson.) He was a 
brave and kindly knight whose fault had been indifference to 
God. In punishment he suffers many trials, but in the end 
is chastened and triumphant. — 20. Ydoine . . . Amadase. 
The heroine and hero of an old French romance, Amadas and 
Ydoine. Amadas was a descendant of Amadis de Gaul, the son 
of the fabulous King Perion of Wales, and Elisena, a British 
princess. There is also an English romance of Sir Amadas. 


The Prick of Conscience 

Richard Rolle, the Hermit of Hampole, was born at Thorn- 
ton, Yorkshire. He studied at Oxford, but being dissatisfied 
with the teachings of the Schoolmen, left the University and 

454 NOTES 

resolved to lead a life of prayer and devotion as a hermit. He 
preached to the people in English, against the abuses of the time 
and against some of the theological doctrines of the Church, 
and was thus in two respects a forerunner of Wyclif . ThePrick 
of Conscience, written about 1340, is addressed to the unlearned 
" that can ne Latyne understand," and is intended by its dread- 
ful picture of death and judgment to prick the reader's con- 
science, so that he may " work good works and flee folly." 


Points of resemblance between The Pearl and certain poems 
of France and Italy (particularly the Old French poem, The 
Romance of the Rose, Dante's Divine Comedy, and an eclogue of 
Boccaccio) have been observed and commented on by scholars. 
Nevertheless, a mere general resemblance between two works, a 
similarity of tone or incident, does not prove conclusively that 
one of them is a direct and conscious imitation of the other. 
Both authors may have drawn their ideas independently 
from a common source, or both may be independently impelled 
to express a certain spiritual mood, which, as it is characteristic 
of the time, is common to both. 

In the Divine Comedy, Dante shows us Beatrice, his heavenly 
guide, among the blessed ; in the Pearl the poet shows us the 
little maiden, his " Queen " and teacher, surrounded by the 
glories of the heavenly Jerusalem. We realize that these two 
poems (different in many ways) have yet something in com- 
mon, because each, in its own fashion, expresses the religious 
faith, the mysticism, the spiritualized devotion to womanhood, 
which is a characteristic mood of the medieval mind. Yet 
while the mere similarity of the incident, or situation, may not, 
taken by itself, justify us in asserting that the author of the 
Pearl consciously borrowed from Dante, we think this unknown 
English poet had breathed the same spiritual air as Dante and 
certain poets of France, and that he was at home in their world. 

But whatever the relation may be between the Pearl and 
certain continental poems (a matter about which opinions 


differ), in the English poetry of the time, at least, this mystical 
vision stands virtually alone. Although we cannot certainly 
tell the name of this poet of western England who wrote Sir 
Gawayne and the Pearl, his spirit survives in his work, and that 
spirit sets him apart from his two great contemporaries in 
poetry — Chaucer and Langland. It stamps his work, anony- 
mous as it is, with the impress of a defined personality. Chaucer, 
born in London and bred at Court, shows us the world 
he knew and enjoyed ; sympathetic, observant, he yet speaks 
for the upper classes. Langland, the obscure countryman, 
coming from the Malvern Hills to live on and in London, makes 
audible the cry of the poor. But the poet of the Western Mid- 
lands had still other worlds to interpret and reveal : the world 
of old romance (which Chaucer touched upon, travestied, per- 
haps, in Sir Thopas) and the world of the invisible. And 
whether we ride through the plains with Sir Gawayne, faithful to 
his vows in the face of every obstacle, or whether we fall asleep 
with the poet in the Pearl, and see the heavens opened, the 
dominant purpose, underlying difference of presentation, is 
similar or the same. This west of England poet is not occupied, 
like Chaucer, in painting the manners or humours of his time, 
in making the human comedy of medieval life live in the imagi- 
nation ; he is not bent, like Langland, on solving the social prob- 
lems that vexed the England of his generation ; his purpose is 
primarily moral, his object is to show the place of certain 
fundamental virtues in the individual life. His hero, Sir Ga- 
wayne, is notable for his faith, his courage, his endurance or 
patience, and his purity ; although even Gawayne is not alto- 
gether free from a touch of human weakness. Cleanness (or 
Purity) is the theme of another of the author's poems, and the 
virtues of purity and patience are again celebrated in the 
Pearl. In the Pearl the influence of a child, the spotless pearl 
of innocence, reaches the poet from a world beyond ours in the 
tumult of his grief, and calms his rebellion and impatience into 
a patient acceptance of the Divine Will. 

Are we right in saying that the Pearl has something about it 

456 NOTES 

that sets it apart in the national literature of its own, or even of 
earlier times? Descriptions of the joys of heaven are not in- 
frequent in Old and Middle-English poetry ; the device of 
the sleep and the subsequent dream, or vision, employed by 
Chaucer (as in his Dethe of Blaunche the Duchesse) and by 
Langland in Piers the Ploughman, is a familiar one. But to one 
who has entered into the spirit of the Pearl these resemblances 
seem external and comparatively unimportant. It is even 
more essential to feel that the Pearl differs from certain other 
English poems than to notice any details in which it may 
resemble them. That difference is a difference of quality, 
which can be better felt than defined, and it is that elusive 
quality above all which makes the poem, as Tennyson called it, 
the " true Pearl of our poetic prime." 

Great dispute has arisen over the interpretation of this 
anonymous and mystical poem. According to one view, that 
of Professor Gollancz, Dr. Osgood, and others, it is the lament 
of a father for his daughter, whose loss he mourns in the 
symbolism of the lost pearl and in his vision of her in the 
heavenly kingdom. Professor Schofield, on the contrary, 
maintains that the poem possesses no such personal significance, 
and that, from beginning to end, it is an example of medieval 
mysticism and allegory, expressing through the symbolism of 
the pearl the beauty of purity and holiness. (See Gollancz, 
in Cambridge History of English Literature, I, Chap. XV, pp. 
357 ff. ; and Schofield in Pub., M. L. A. XIX, p. 154, and ib. 
XXIV, p. 585.) 

Much of the difficulty in interpreting the poem lies in the 
first stanza : 

" Perle plesaunte to Prynces paye, 
To clanly clos in golde so clere ! 
Oute of Oryent, I hardyly saye, 
Ne proued I neuer her precios pere, 
So rounde, so reken in vche araye, 
So smal, so smobe her syde? were. 
Queresoeuer I jugged gemmed gaye, 


I sette hyr sengeley in synglere. 
Alias ! I leste hyr in on erbere ; 
pur? gresse to grounde hit fro me yot. 
I dewyne, fordolked of luf-daungere, 
Of bat pryuy perle wythouten spot." 

There are several editions and numerous translations of 
the Pearl. 

Among others the following may be mentioned. Editions : 
I. Gollancz, London, 1891 : C. G. Osgood (Belles Lettres Series), 
1906. Translations: Gollancz (to accompany his edition of 
the text, supra); Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, 1906; G. G. Coulton, 
London, 1906; S. Jewett, 1908; and a prose translation by 
C. G. Osgood, 1907, full of beauty and poetic insight. 

145. — 9. Arbere. For the meaning of this term see note 187, 

147. — 43. Gillyfleur, ginger, and gromyloun, the gilly- 
flower, the ginger plant, and the gromwell or graymill. 

148. — 91. No citole's string nor gittermere. The citole 
is a small dulcimer, that is, an instrument shaped like a trape- 
zium with wires stretched across its frame. It seems that while 
the dulcimer was usually played by striking the strings with 
hammers, the citole, being smaller, could be played by pricking 
or thrumming the strings. The gittern is the same as the 
cithern, a kind of guitar. 


Piers the Ploughman 

Until recently the poem known as The Vision of William 
Concerning Piers the Ploughman has been supposed to be the 
work of a certain William Langland, or Langley. Its author, 
according to this generally accepted view, was born at Cleobury- 
Mortimer, in southern Shropshire, about 1332. He came to 
London, where he made a scanty living by assisting in singing 
masses for the repose of the dead; and he devoted himself to 

458 NOTES 

the writing and rewriting of his Vision. There are three 
principal versions, or texts, of Piers the Ploughman, and 
scholars have hitherto agreed that all these versions were the 
work of Langland. Langland, as it has been supposed, was con- 
stantly revising and enlarging the original draught of his poem ; 
these three versions, embodying his principal changes and addi- 
tions, would thus correspond to successive revised and enlarged 
editions of a book in modern times. 

This view is now questioned. It is contended that what 
we know as the Poem of Piers the Ploughman, in its various 
versions, is not the work of Langland, nor of any one author, 
but is really a group, or " cluster," of poems composed by 
various unknown poets. Even the first version of the poem 
(or Text A., as it is called) was not all written by one man. 
The occasional references to Langland himself in the poem are 
thought fictitious and untrustworthy, and the figure of the 
gaunt seeker after Truth fades into myth and becomes as in- 
substantial as the dissolving mists on the hills of Malvern, so 
long linked with his name. Professor Manly thus concludes 
his able exposition of this view, " Our study of the Piers the 
Ploughman cluster of poems has shown us that that confused 
voice and that mighty vision were the voice and vision, not 
of one lonely, despised wanderer, but of many men, who, 
though of diverse tempers and gifts, cherished the same enthu- 
siasm for righteousness and hate for evil." (See Cambridge 
History of English Literature, II, Chap. I, and for a refutation 
of this theory, M. Jusserand's article in Modern Philology, 
January, 1909. The entire controversy is reported in E. E. T., 
Original Series, V. 139, extra Vol.) 

The comparative merits of these opposing theories cannot 
be discussed here ; it is enough to say that the portions of the 
poem given in the present collection are taken from the 
early part of Text A, and are therefore, according to either 
view, the work of a single author. 

155. — 2. In cloak as a shepherd. The original reads : 
" I shep me into shroudes as I a sheep (or shepe) were," 


which is ordinarily understood to mean : I put myself in a 
coarse garment (or cloak) as though I were a shepherd. Mor- 
ley, however, suggested the following interpretation, which is 
ingenious but probably unsound : " ' Shepe ' here is said to 
mean, as it can mean, shepherd, and William is supposed to have 
put on a shepherd's dress, which resembled that of a hermit 
I think that ' shepe ' means sheep, as the opposite to shepherd, 
and that William on a summer's day put off the clerical dress 
that marked his place among the pastors, and made himself 
as one of the flock," etc. (E. W ., IV, 287). — 5. Malverne 
hilles. The Malvern hills extend north and south along the 
western border of Worcestershire. There was formerly a con- 
vent and school at Malvern, a town near the foot of these hills, 
and Jusserand thinks it likely that Langland " first studied " 
at this school {Literary History of the English People, I, 

156. — 37. Yet have wit at their will, etc. The minstrels, 
who give an innocent pleasure by their music, are distinguished 
from the jesters and jugglers, who seek out and perform all 
kinds of silly tricks, and make fools of themselves, while they 
are perfectly able to work if they choose. I might quote (the 
poet says in effect) what St. Paul says about idleness {i.e. 
" If a man does not work, neither shall he eat," 77 Thess. iii : 
10) and show that it applies to them, but I will not because 
he who speaks evil, or slanders {Qui turpiloquium loquitur), 
is Lucifer's servant. — 40. Bidders and Beggars. Another 
example of the conjunction of synonymous words for the sake 
of alliteration and of metrical facility. See glee and game, 
103, 19. — 44. Robert's men, Robartes men, or Roberdsmen 
" were a set of lawless vagabonds, notorious for their outrages 
when Piers the Ploughman was written. ... Sir Edward Coke 
supposes them to have been originally followers of Robin Hood 
in the reign of Richard I." (Skeat.) — 47. To seek for St 
James. The shrine of St. James the Great, at Santiago {i.e. 
St. James) de Compostella, a town in northwestern Spain, 
was one of the most famous in Europe. During the Middle 

460 NOTES 

Ages many pilgrimages were made to this shrine (which was be- 
lieved to contain the body of the Apostle) , especially , it is said, by 
Englishmen. See Southey'spoem, The Pilgrim to Compostella. 

157. — 54. Walsingham. A small town in the northern part 
of Norfolk, England, was another famous place of pilgrimage. 
There was a famous image of the Virgin in the Priory there, which 
was known as " our Lady of Walsingham." There are numerous 
contemporary references to the pilgrimages to Walsingham 
(see, e.g., the poem As you came from the holy land of Walsing- 
hame, attributed to Sir Walter Raleigh). — 58. Friars of the four 
orders: i.e. the Carmelites, or White Friars; the Augustines, 
or Austin Friars ; the Dominicans, or Black Friars, and the 
Franciscans, or Gray Friars. — 71. Falseness in fasting. I.e. of 
falseness (or unfaithfulness) in keeping their vows of fasting. 

158. — 92. Wards — wardmote, each ward, or division, of 
London had its ward-mote, or ward-meeting of the citizens, 
presided over by the Alderman whose duty it was to select the 
officials and regulate the affairs of the ward. The poet complains 
that ecclesiastics desert their religious duties, and stay in London. 
Some of them are in the King's service, and count the silver 
coming to the Crown in the Courts of Exchequer and of Chan- 
cery, claiming the money due to the King from the various wards 
and wardmotes, as well as goods which were without an owner 
(or waifs) and property left by an alien who had died without 
a will (estrays). — 112. Dieu vous sauve, Dame. " God save 
you, Dame (or," according to another version, Dame Emma). 
" Evidently the refrain of some low popular song" (Skeat). 

159. — 117. The roast to defy. The roast meat to digest. 
See " Defy," Cent. Diet. 

The Vision 

159 — 140. I fostered thee first, etc. Literally, I received 
thee first (viz. at baptism), and taught thee thy faith. You 
brought me vows (gave me pledges when you were taken into 
the Church) my bidding to work. 

160. — 150. On Deus Caritas I do it. Skeat considers this 


idiomatic expression as equivalent to, " I appeal to the text God is 
love (I John iv : 8) as my^ authority," and cites a later passage 
in the poem, / do it on the Kinge, i.e. I appeal to the King. 
161. — 171. Date et dabitur vobis. " Give and it shall be 
given unto you." St. Luke VI, 38. The poet tells us that if 
we find truth we find love, for truth will tell us that love is the 
sovereign remedy, the most precious of virtues. 


The early English songs are full of interest to the student of 
literary history ; but beyond this, they have often an unmis- 
takably poetic quality which appeals to all who love and 
enjoy poetry for its own sake. In some of them, as in the 
famous Cuckoo Song (p. 161), we catch a frank delight in sun- 
shine and in the green earth, a joyous freshness, which echoes, 
perhaps, the still earlier music of the folk-song. Many of these 
Middle-English lyrics are religious, the utterance of an 
age when religion held a large place in literature and in life ; 
some are lullabies, some drinking-songs, some love-songs. Some, 
like the Winter Song (p. 164), are sombre and melancholy, 
but many are alive with the careless rapture of youth and 

These songs are not strictly folk-songs, for they show some 
traces of conscious art and some acquaintance with foreign 
models. They were not the voice of an untaught peasantry ; 
they were made by men belonging to the more educated classes, 
by monks, by minstrels, or by clerks, who had studied, perhaps 
at the University of Paris, or at Oxford. Nevertheless, the 
fact that these were not true songs of the people does not prove 
that the folk-song never flourished in England. On the con- 
trary, we cannot doubt that the common people of England 
had their popular songs from a very early time, — how early 
no one can certainly say. We find allusions to such songs in 
the works of certain ancient writers ; we find references to 

462 NOTES 

them in certain early English laws, — but we have no definite 
knowledge of their origin, and the songs themselves have 
vanished almost as utterly as those who sang them. Probably 
these songs of the people were never written down, or, if some 
of them were recorded, the manuscripts have long since been 
lost. Here and there, indeed, we may find a refrain or a stray 
phrase which suggests a popular origin, or which seems like 
a chance survival of a long-buried world. In the older poetry, 
that strange charm, Erce, erce, erce (p. 1), suggests, or half-dis- 
closes, a world beyond the formal confines of literature. Here 
is a pagan rite, but little obscured by the Christian additions 
of a later time, an ancient heathen ceremony associated with 
the labors of the peasant, and suggestive of the primitive rela- 
tion to the life-giving forces of the earth. 

Whatever songs and ballads may have been anciently cur- 
rent among the English, we must remember that for about 
one hundred and fifty or two hundred years after the Norman 
Conquest, the French literature and culture were dominant. 
During this time the nation was submerged under the flood of 
foreign influences, and while many an English ploughman, 
maid, or lover, may have sung the old songs, or have made new 
ones, it was, nevertheless, the French poetry of the ruling class 
that got itself recorded. 

It will be remembered that the thirteenth century (the 
century of Layamon's Brut, The Owl and the Nightingale, 
and many other poems) was marked by a growing tendency to 
use the English language in literature. As the earliest Middle- 
English songs which have been preserved date from the middle 
or latter half of the thirteenth century, we naturally connect 
this emergence of the English lyric with that revival of the 
vernacular literature which was a distinguishing feature of the 
time. On the other hand, we should realize, when we speak of 
the Cuckoo Song (cir. 1250) as " the earliest English Song," 
we mean simply that it is the earliest English song of the period 
which chance has preserved. Many of the best early English 
songs have been preserved in a manuscript volume which con- 


tains a miscellaneous collection of Latin, Anglo-French, and Eng- 
lish prose and verse. This collection, which is supposed to have 
been made at Leominster Priory, in Herefordshire, about 13 10, 
is now in the British Museum (Harleian Ms. 2253). The Eng- 
lish songs in this collection have been printed by Boddeker 
{Alienglischer Dichtungen des Harlean Ms. 2253), and most of 
them are also given by Wright, in his Specimens of Lyric Poetry, 
Percy Society, 1842. See also E. E. T., XLIX, XCVIII, 
CXVII, XXIV, and LILT. The Early English Lyrics, Amor- 
ous, Divine, Moral, and Trivial, edited by E. K. Chambers, and 
F. Sidgwick, Bullen, 1907, with notes and an article on " Medi- 
aeval Lyrics," is an admirable and valuable collection. 

Canute's Song 

This is one of the earliest examples, if not the earliest, of the 
songs of the people before the Norman Conquest. It ap- 
pears in the History of the Monastery of Ely by Thomas of Ely, 
and in its written form dates from about 1167. The author of 
the History " tells how Canute the King ' going by boat to 
keep at Ely the feast of the Purification of the Virgin, looked 
up at the church that rose from a rock near the Ouse, and or- 
dered the rowers to row slowly towards the land that he might 
hear the songs of the monks. Then calling his companions 
about him, he bade them sing with him, and, expressing with 
his own mouth the gladness of his heart, composed this little 
song in English.' " (Morley, E. W., Ill, pp. 239-240.) See 
Professor Gummere's comments on this song and on its place in 
the history of the ballad, in his book The Popular Ballad, 
p. 58. 

When the Nightingale Sings 

It will be noted that this poem has not been so completely 
modernized as have many others in the collection. The exqui- 
site melody of the original can really be preserved only by 
retaining the pronunciation of the final e's and of other syl- 
lables now redundant, upon which it very largely depends. 




Nothing need be said here of Chaucer's life, character, or 
work, but it may not be superfluous to recall his general rela- 
tion to the literature of his time. Chaucer's literary activity 
covers a period of about forty years, or from about 1360, or a 
little later, to his death in 1400. His chief contemporaries 
in poetry were therefore John Gower, William Langland (or, 
as some contend, the author of Piers the Ploughman) , the un- 
known poet of Sir Gawayne and The Pearl, and the Scottish poet 
Barbour, the author of The Bruce. Broadly speaking, Gower 
may be classed with Chaucer, although greatly inferior to him 
in genius. Langland, or Piers the Ploughman, speaks for the 
social unrest and for the suffering poor, while in the poet of The 
Pearl and of Sir Gawayne, we find an utterance of the religious 
spirit of the Middle Ages, and of the world of medieval chivalry 
and romance, which was even then beginning to disappear. 
Chaucer neither champions the cause of the common people, 
nor does he, like the poet of Sir Gawayne, employ the old allitera- 
tive verse, or stand distinctively for the world of old-time 
romance. He begins life as a protege of the Court ; he is page, 
esquire, diplomat, at home among the ruling class. He is the 
child of aristocratic and of foreign influences. His masters 
in poetry are not English, but French and Italian. Yet 
Chaucer is not to be regarded as the mouthpiece of any class 
or as the mere product of certain influences. He was not a 
" product," but a man of genius, a strong and original personal- 



ity. He borrowed from the French and the Italians, but the 
use he made of the materials he appropriated is even more im- 
portant than the sources from which they were obtained. He 
is above all, and in spite of all, English, — English in his 
wholesome humour, in his sterling common sense, and in his 
unequalled portraiture of his time. 

Chaucer was not only the first of the greater poets of England 
in point of time, he was the first great poet of London. In 
London he was born, in London he spent practically all of his 
busy life, and in London he died. There is a wider significance 
in this than might be supposed. In all the centuries before 
Chaucer, London, in spite of its commercial and political im- 
portance, had been of little or no consequence in literature. 
Notable writers or literary schools had appeared, now in the 
north, now in the south, now in the west, and literary works 
had been written in the dialect now of one section, now of 
another ; but before Chaucer literature was provincial rather 
than national, for England had neither a literary capital nor 
any one form of English generally accepted throughout the 
land. Chaucer was the first of the great London men-of-letters, 
and from his time until now London has been the intellectual 
and literary centre of the English people. And Chaucer was 
the first of the greater poets to use that especial form or local 
variety of English which was destined to gain in importance, 
until, developed and enriched, it rose above all provincial com- 
petition, and became the recognized standard English of the 
English race. 

The Dethe of Blaunche the Duchesse 

The few selections here given from Chaucer give some 
notion of the development of his genius, and of his earlier and his 
later styles. The Dethe of Blaunche the Duchesse, or The Book 
of the Duchess, written about 1369, is " the first of Chaucer's 
poems to which a definite date can be assigned " ; the Canterbury 
Tales (represented here by the Prologue and a part of The 
Pardoner's Tale) was Chaucer's last work. The Duchess, 

466 NOTES 

whose untimely death in 1369 was the occasion of Chaucer's 
poem, was Lady Blanche, the first wife of the poet's patron, 
John of Gaunt, third son of Edward III. The poem was evi- 
dently written under the influence of the French poets, Chau- 
cer's early masters. It is unequal, and in places tedious, but 
contains some charming passages. 

179. — 68. Sterres seven. Here, probably, Charles' Wain, 
or the seven brightest stars in the constellation of Ursa Major. 
" We that take purses go by the moon and the seven stars " 
(Shakspeare, / Henry IV, 1. 2). The seven planets of the old 
astronomy (viz. the sun, the moon, Mercury, Mars, Venus, and 
Saturn) were also spoken of as the " seven stars." Chaucer 
himself uses the expression " seven stars " in this sense earlier 
in this poem (1. 408). In the passage now in question, however, 
as he has just declared the lady to be brighter than the sun, the 
moon, or any other planet, the " seven stars " can hardly mean 
seven planets, as this would involve a partial repetition of what 
has already been said. 

The Parlement of Foules 

For a general consideration of this poem and of the circum- 
stances under which it was probably composed, see Root's 
Poetry of Chaucer, pp. 63 et seq. 

181. — 677. The note. I.e. the tune. Cf. " I made this 
ditty and the note to it." Ben Jonson, Cynthia's Revels, 
IV, 1. The phrase " change your note " is equivalent to 
" change your tune." Chaucer sets his words to a French air. 
Burns and Moore, it will be remembered, wrote many songs 
with some particular air in mind. 

The Legend of Good Women 

The works of Chaucer are commonly divided into three 
groups. The poems of the first group are all supposed to have 
been written before Chaucer visited Italy, or before 1372. 
Up to this time Chaucer had not come under the influence of 


the Italian writers. This poem shows his indebtedness to the 
poets of France. The poems of the second period, which in- 
clude The Parlement of Foules and Troilus and Cressida, 
show the influence of the Italian poets, especially of Dante 
and Boccaccio. The third period begins with The Legend of 
Good Women, which is followed by Chaucer's masterpiece, The 
Canterbury Tales. The Legend of Good Women, like its great suc- 
cessor, consists of a number of separate stories introduced by 
a prologue. In the Legend, however, the stories are all selected 
to illustrate a single theme ; they are all stories, taken from 
Ovid and various other sources, of women who have been vic- 
tims or martyrs to love. The task of telling these stories is the 
" penance " imposed upon Chaucer in the prologue by Alceste 
(or Alcestis) for his offences against love in certain of his former 

" Now wol I seyn what penance thou shalt do 
For thy trespas, and understonde it here ; 
Thou shalt while that thou lyvest, yere by yere, 
The moste partye of thy tyme spende 
In makyng of a glorious Legende 
Of goode wymmen, maydenes and wyves, 
That weren trew in lovyng al hire ly ves ; 
And telle of false men that hem bytraien. 
That al here lyf ne don nat but asayen." 

Apparently the poem was planned to tell the stories of nineteen 
good women. Only nine stories have come down to us, how- 
ever, telling the fate of ten martyrs to love. It is thought 
that Chaucer put the poem aside to work on The Canterbury 
Tales, and so left it unfinished. See Introduction to The Legend 
of Good Women in Skeat's ed. of The Complete Works of Geoffrey 
Chaucer and Root's Poetry of Chaucer, p. 135. 

182. — 16. Bernarde, the monke. I.e. St. Bernard of Clair- 
vaux (1091-1153). The sense is, even St. Bernard, one of the 
holiest and wisest men of his time, did not see everything. 
The passage is founded on a Latin proverb which appears in a 
marginal gloss in certain Mss. of Chaucer : " Bernardus mona- 
chus non vidit omnia." It is known from other sources that 

468 NOTES 

this saying referred to St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and not to 
St. Bernard of Morlaix. 

185. — 114. Agenores doghtre. I.e. Europa, the daughter 
of King Agenor. 

187. — 199. Herber. Here, as usual in Middle English 
literature, a resting place, or plot, covered with grass, or herb- 
age. The " herber " in this case, was " benched on turves fresh 
y-grave." This is usually supposed to mean that it was fur- 
nished with a kind of terrace, or elevation, covered with newly 
cut turf, which served for a seat. The more natural interpreta- 
tion, however, is tha£ benches, or seats, were placed upon the 
fresh turf. Cf. the description of an arbor in The Flower 
and the Leaf, 11. 49 et seq. (given on p. 228), and see " Arbour" 
in N. E. D., and Cent. Diet. 

189. — 245. Absalon is the Absalom of the Bible, here re- 
ferred to because of the beauty of his hair (77 Sam. xiv : 25- 
26). Ester, the Esther of the book of Esther, noted for her 
beauty (Esther ii : 7) ; Penalopee is Penelope the wife of Ulys- 
ses; Marcia Catoun is Marcia, the daughter of Cato Uticencis, 
great-grandson to Cato the Censor (v. Lounsbury's Studies in 
Chaucer, II, 294) ; Y sonde is Iseult, in the story of Sir Tristram, 
and Helen is Helen of Troy. Lavyne is Lavinia, who is intro- 
duced into the latter part of Vergil's Mneid (Bk. VII) ; she 
was the daughter of King Latinus, and after being betrothed to 
Turnus became the bride of ^Eneas. Lucresse is Lucretia, the 
heroine of the well-known Roman story ; Polixene is Polyxena, 
the Trojan maiden, the beautiful and unfortunate daughter of 
Priam and Hecuba ; Cleopatra, Thisbe, Hero, Dido, and Lao- 
damia are all familiar instances of unhappy love and wifely 
devotion. Phillis, daughter of Sithon, King of Thrace, was 
deserted by her lover Demophoon, somewhat as Dido was de- 
serted by y£neas ; Phillis, like Dido, killed herself. Canace, 
the daughter of iEolus, was put to death for love ; Ysiphile 
(or Hypsipyle), the Queen of Lemnos, was loved and deserted 
by Jason in his search for the Golden Fleece. Ypermystre 
is Hypermnestra, one of the fifty daughters of Danaeus, who was 


imprisoned by her father because, in disobedience to his com- 
mand, she did not murder her husband, but suffered him to 

Prologue to the Canterbury Tales 

190. — 5. Zephirus. The classical personification of the 
west wind, noted for its mild and life-giving influence. Among 
the Romans he was identified with Favonius, the soft wind of 
the spring. Cf. The Seasons, p. 118, 1. 16, supra. — 8. Hath 
in the Ram, i.e. in Aries, the first of the signs of the Zodiac. 
The sun passed through the Ram from March 12 to April n, 
when it entered the sign ol the Bull, or Taurus. That is to 
say, during April the sun's course was about half in the first 
sign and half in the second. Chaucer's meaning is that the 
young sun (i.e. the sun which had newly entered upon its 
annual progress) had run its half-course in the Ram, and had 
entered Taurus, i.e. it was past the eleventh of April. — 13. 
Palmers. Pilgrims who had come back from the Holy Land, 
bringing palm-branches with them as tokens or holy relics of 
their pilgrimage. Here, apparently, pilgrims to any foreign 
or distant shrine. — 17. Blissful martir, i.e. Thomas a Becket, 
who was murdered at Canterbury in n 70, and whose shrine 
in Canterbury Cathedral was one of the most famous in 
medieval Europe. — 20. The Tabard. One of the oldest 
and most famous of the London inns. It was situated on the 
High Street of Southwark, and its location made it a convenient 
stopping-place and point of departure for travellers who were 
going southward from London into Surrey or Kent. It was 
largely patronized by pilgrims on their way to the shrine of 
Thomas a. Becket at Canterbury. Stow (writing in 1598) 
says : " In Southwark there be many fair inns for the receipt of 
travellers . . . amongst the which the most ancient is the 
Tabard, so called of the sign, which, as we now term it, is of a 
jacket or sleeveless coat, whole before, open on both sides, with 
a square collar, winged at the shoulders ; a stately garment of 

47° NOTES 

old time, commonly worn of noblemen and others. . . . But 
now these Tabards are only worn by the heralds." 

191. — 51. Alisaundre. Alexandria in Egypt, which was 
taken by Pierre of Lusignan, king of Cyprus, in 1365. — 52. 
Bord bigonne, i.e. " he had been placed at the head of the dais, 
or table (bord) of state." See Skeat's note on this much dis- 
puted phrase (from which the above explanation is made), in 
which several examples of this use of the expression are given ; 
see also "Board" in TV. E. D. — 53. Pruce. "When our Eng- 
lish Knights wanted employment, it was usual for them to 
serve in Pruce, or Prussia, with the Knights of the Teutonic 
order, who were in a state of constant warfare with their 
heathen neighbors in Lettow (Lithuania), Ruce (Russia), and 
elsewhere" (Tyrwhitt). — 56. Gernade. The Knight had 
been in Grenada at the siege of Algezir (or Algeciras), a sea- 
port town near Gibraltar, which was taken from the Moors 
in 1344 by Alfonso XI, king of Castile. — 57. Belmarye, see 
note 192. — 62, below. 

192. — 62 Tramyssene and Belmarye . . . were Moorish 
kingdoms in Africa. Lyeys, a town in Armenia, was taken 
from the Turks by Pierre de Lusignan about 1367. Satal'ye, 
the town of Adalia or Attalia in Asiatic Turkey, was taken by 
the same leader about 1352. Palatye, or Palathia, is Anatolia 
in Asia Minor, and is not far from the island of Samos. It was 
held by the Christian Knights after the Turkish conquests. 
These particulars concerning the wars in which the Knight 
had been engaged seem intended to impress us with his faith- 
fulness and prowess in the great wars between Christian Eu- 
rope and heathendom. His sword had been turned against 
the heathen in distant parts of the world. He had fought 
three times in the lists as the champion against the heathen, 
and he had fought for the faith against the Moors in Spain, 
against the Mohammedan Turks in Asia Minor, and against 
the heathen Lithuanians. — 66. Another heathen, i.e. other 
than those infidels he had encountered in the lists at Tremezen 
(Tramyssene). — 70. Vileynye. Discourtesy, lack of gentle- 


ness and consideration. For the history and meaning of 
this word, see Trench, English Past and Present, Chap. VII ; 
Greenough and Kittredge, Words and their Ways in English 
Speech, p. 284. — 74. His hors. His horse was good, but he 
(the Knight himself) was plainly dressed. Some Mss. read, 
" His hors (pi.) weren good " (his horses were good). If this 
reading is adopted, the reference must be to the three horses 
belonging to the Knight and his two followers, the Squire and 
the Yeoman. — 80. Bacheler, i.e. one not yet admitted to 
knighthood, who is still in the probationary or preliminary 

193. — 107. His arwes. "The sense is : ' His arrows did 
not present a draggled appearance owing to the feathers being 
crushed;" i.e. the feathers stood out erect and regularly, as 
necessary to secure for them a good flight" (Skeat). — 115. 
Cristophere, i.e. a brooch with a figure of St. Christopher. 
The image of this saint was supposed to be a charm, or pro- 
tection, against sudden or hidden dangers. Morley says : 
" It was part of the Mediaeval faith, that he who had seen an 
image of St. Christopher was safe for the day against sudden 
or accidental death." In the legend of St. Christopher the 
poisoned arrows directed against the saint were powerless to 
injure him, but returned upon his persecutors. — 120. Seinte 
Loy, i.e. St. Elgius, or St. Eloy, Bishop of Noyon, patron saint 
of goldsmiths and farriers. It has been suggested that the 
Prioress, who seems to have been fond of jewelry, invoked him 
as the patron of goldsmiths, or more probably, because the 
oath " by St. Loy " was a very mild one for that time. — 
125. Stratford-atte-Bowe. By the " scole of Stratford-atte- 
Bowe" Chaucer is supposed to mean the ancient Benedictine 
nunnery, or priory, of St. Leonard's at Bromley (or Bromley 
St. Leonards). Bromley was a small village about four miles 
east of the heart of old London, and only about half a mile 
south of the neighboring hamlet of Stratford-at-Bow. The 
priory of St. Leonards, says Bishop Tanner, " was in the 
parish of Bromley, but so near to the hamlet of Stratford Bow, 

472 NOTES 

that it is most commonly so called. . . . No trace of any part 
of the buildings of the nunnery of St. Leonard's are now to be 
seen, except the chapel of St. Mary, which has been converted 
into a parish church." (Dugdale, Monasticon Anglicanum, 
IV, 119.) The name Stratford-at-Bow is explained by the 
situation of the town. It was situated near an ancient ford 
over the river Lea (which flows south into the Thames), where 
the stratum, or Roman road, crossed the river. A bridge was 
afterwards erected at this point, called from its arch " Bow 
Bridge." Stratford, the town near the Bow Bridge, came to 
be distinguished as Stratford-at-Bow. — 126. Frenssh of 
Parys. The obvious meaning of this passage is that the 
Prioress spoke the provincial or Anglo-Norman French, as it 
was then spoken at the priory at Stratford-at-Bow ; and that 
she used this especial form, not because it was the best, but 
because she was unacquainted with the French of Paris, which 
(we are led to infer) was superior. Skeat rejects this inter- 
pretation, and declares that no disparagement of the local or 
Anglo-Norman French is implied or intended. This novel 
and ingenious interpretation cannot be sustained. It not 
only destroys the ironic humor of the description and deprives 
it of all point, but it conflicts with certain passages in writers 
in and before Chaucer's time, which sustain the older and 
simpler interpretation. (See Lounsbury's Chaucer, II, 456 ; 
Hinckley's Notes on Chaucer, 10.^ Chaucer's object is to 
make us see and know the Prioress, to acquaint us with her 
little peculiarities, her dress, her taste, her point of view. We 
must accordingly combine all the details of his description, 
put together all his stray hints, to make the complete picture. 
The Prioress was not without her harmless affectations. She 
thought a great deal about the impression she made upon 
others ; she longed to be looked up to and held worthy of great 
respect. She tried very hard to imitate the manners of the 
Court, cultivated a dignified manner, and spoke French with 
ease. Why does Chaucer emphasize this last-named accom- 
plishment? The ability to speak French was not uncommon 


among the upper classes at that time. Chaucer's reason for 
telling us that the Prioress spoke French seems fairly clear. 
The Queen and the fine ladies at the Court spoke French, 
and we know how the Prioress regarded Court fashions. We 
may fairly infer that she prided herself upon her fluent French 
as a badge of breeding, an accomplishment which connected 
her with Court circles, and at the same time elevated her above 
the mass of common people who spoke English only. But, 
to get the full humour of the passage, we must follow Chaucer 
a step further. In the fourteenth century the Anglo-Norman 
French had become less pure ; the standard French was the 
French of Paris. " Central or Parisian French was now the 
recognized standard on the Continent, and the French of the 
English Court was not Norman, but as good French as the no- 
bility could muster " (Greenough and Kittredge, Words and 
their Ways in English Speech, 86). If this is true, our punc- 
tilious Prioress (who at best spoke the Anglo-Norman French 
then current), did not, with all her graces, speak the French of 
the aristocratic circles after all. 

194. — 159. A peire of bedes, i.e. a set or string of beads. 
See " bead " and " pair," Cent. Diet. In this case the beads were 
of small coral, and were gauded al with grene, which may mean 
either that they were gayly decorated with green, or else, more 
probably, that the ganders, or larger beads in the string, were 
all of green. — 161. Crowned A. "A" probably stood for 
Amor, or charity. The crown above the letter apparently 
signified that Love or Charity was the greatest of the Christian 
virtues. (Cf. I Cor. xiii.) — 164. Chapeleyne. Probably 
one who served in some minor capacity in the chapel, or per- 
haps acted as secretary or assistant to the Lady Superior. 
A nun would hardly be a chaplain in the ordinary sense of 
the word. — 165. A Monk. The gay, luxurious ecclesiastic, 
Prior Aymer, in Scott's Ivanhoe, obviously has points of like- 
ness to Chaucer's Monk. Scott practically acknowledges his 
indebtedness to Chaucer, by placing some lines from the de- 
scription of the Monk at the head of the chapter in which 

474 NOTES 

Prior Aymer is introduced to the reader. — 165. A fair for the 
maistrie, i.e. a good one for the management of affairs; or, 
as we should say, well calculated to succeed. — 166. Out- 
ridere. Here simply one fond of riding out for hunting, or 
for pleasure. 

195. — 173. Seint Maure . . . seint Beneit. St. Benedict 
(St. Beneit), who d. cir. 542, was the founder of the Benedictine 
order of monks. He established a monastery at Mont 
Cassino, and the regulations which he made for the monks (the 
" reule of . . . seint Beneit ") were in time generally adopted 
by other monasteries throughout Europe. Seint Maure {i.e. 
St. Maur or Maurus), a young Roman patrician, was a promi- 
nent follower of St. Benedict, and ultimately became his 
successor. — 177. That text. Skeat points out that the word 
text " was used of any written statement that was frequently 
quoted." He adds : "The allusion is to the legend of Nimrod, 
' the mighty hunter ' {Gen. x, 9), which described him as a 
very bad man." He also cites the canons of King Edgar : 
" We enjoin that a priest be not a hunter, nor a hawker, nor 
a dicer." — 187. Austyn, i.e. St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, 
and author of the Confessions. Certain rules for monastic 
life were deduced or compiled from the writings of St. Augus- 
tine; these were known as the Augustinian canons, and were 
adopted by many monastic fraternites. Chaucer's monk 
disdains the rule of St. Augustine as well as that of St. Benedict 
and St. Maure, as strict and behind the times. Skeat quotes from 
Wyclif as follows : " Seynt Austyn techith munkes to labore 
with here hondis, and so doth seint Beneit and seynt Bernard." 

196. — 209. Lymytour, i.e. a. friar allowed to beg within a 
certain prescribed district or limit. — 210. Ordres foure, i.e. 
the Dominican, or Black Friars; the Franciscans, or Gray 
Friars; the Carmelites, or White Friars; the Augustin, or 
Austin, Friars. V. Jusserand, English Wayfaring Life, p. 293. — 
220. Licenciat, i.e. he had been licensed by the Pope to hear 
confessions, grant absolution, and impose penance, independ- 
ent of the local clergy. 


197. — 254. In principio. The opening words of the Gospel 
of St. John, In principio er at verbum, were, used by the friars as 
they entered a house on their rounds as a kind of salutation. 
Furnival quotes the following from Tyndale's Answer to Sir 
Thomas More: "Such is the limiter's saying of In principio 
erat verbum, from house to house." Skeat reminds us that 
" Harry Smith in Scott's Fair Maid of Perth, Chap. Ill, refers 
to a certain priest as one that ' has a pleasant in principio,'' 
etc." — 256. Purchase . . . rente, his purchase (or gains 
from begging) were larger than his rente (or income). In the 
English law an estate by purchase was one obtained by some 
other means than through inheritance. In some cases the word 
purchase had a similar meaning to winnings, spoil, booty, i.e. 
it was applied to property unlawfully acquired, or for which 
no adequate equivalent was given. — 257. And rage he koude, 
i.e. he could romp or play like a puppy. — 258. Love-dayes, 
i.e. days set apart for the settlement of disputes by arbitration 
or amicable agreement. Cf. "This day shall be a love-day, 
Tamora " {Tit. Andron, I, 491). 

198. — 277. Middelburgh and Orewelle. " Middleburgh 
is still a well-known port of the island of Walcheren in the 
Netherlands, almost immediately opposite Harwich, beside 
which are the estuaries of the rivers Stoure and Orwell. This 
spot was formerly known as the 'port of Orwell or Orwelle." 
(Saunders, p. 149.) — 278. Sheeldes. A French coin, worth 
about three shillings and fourpence, or four shillings. They 
were called Shieldes (O.F. escuz, F. ecus) because they had the 
figure of a shield stamped on one side. The merchant acted 
as a banker, and understood how to make his own profit out 
of the exchange of foreign coin. 

199. — 310. Parvys, in general, means, "a court or in- 
closed space in front of a church, a room over a church porch," 
etc. (Supposed to be connected with the word Paradise, 
L.L. paradisus, v. Cent. Diet.) Here, it means specifically 
the porch, or portico, in front of St. Paul's Cathedral, London, 
where the lawyers were accustomed to meet for consultation. 

476 NOTES 

See Saunders' Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, p. 103. — 314- 
315. Assise. Here a session (or sitting) of the circuit couit. 
Henry II revived the practice of sending members of the 
King's Court {Aula Regia, or curia Regis) to hold assizes at 
various places throughout the kingdom. The Aula Regia was 
divided into the Court of King's Bench, the Court of Com- 
mon Pleas, and the Exchequer, and up to Edward Ill's time 
these itinerant justices were chosen from judges of either the 
first or the second of these courts. But by a statute passed 
about forty years before Chaucer wrote his Prologue (14 Ed- 
ward III, c. XVI), in order to promote the administration of 
justice in out-of-the-way places, it was provided that an assize 
might be held if necessary, either by a Judge of the King's 
Bench, or of the Common Pleas, or by a King's Sergeant sworn 
— the King's Sergeant to have the same authority as was above 
given to the justices of the one bench or the other. (Fin- 
layson's ed., Reeve's History of the English Law, II, 302.) 
It was in this capacity that Chaucer's Sergeant had served. 
Chaucer says that the Sergeant held this high office " by patent 
and by pleyn (or full) commission." In this, it has been 
pointed out, Chaucer anticipated a decision given by the chief 
justice late in Edward Ill's reign, " that a judge of assize can 
be created by letters patent or commission under the great 
seal only." (See Serviens ad Legem, by James Manning, 
London, 1840. Pullings, The Order of the Coif, Boston, 1892 ; 
2 Inst. 422.) — 318. Purchasour. Here means a conveyancer. 
The Sergeant is so skilled in the law of real estate that he is 
able, by a fiction of the law, to effect the conveyance of land 
held under certain conditions or restrictions which would ordi- 
narily interfere with its sale, or transfer. All estates were 
therefore to him in fee simple, that is, as though they were 
free from such restrictions. — 327. Coude he pleyn, etc. 
Knew he fully by heart. — 331. Frankeleyn. Primarily a 
free man, but later and more definitely, a free landed proprietor 
who held directly from the crown, free from service to any 
other feudal superior. See Saunders' Chaucer, p. 133. — 


340. Seint Julian. St. Julian Hospitator, the patron saint 
of hospitality, who aided travellers, and received and tended 
the sick and the poor. See Chambers, Book of Days, II, 388. 

200. — 356. Knyght of the shire. " The representative in 
Parliament of a county at large, as distinguished from a 
representative of such cities and towns as are counties in them- 
selves." {Cent. Diet.) 

201. — 400. By water, etc. He sent them by water to 
wherever they came from, i.e. pitched them overboard, — 
made them walk the plank. 

202. — 417-418. Wei koude he, etc. I.e. he well knew how 
to make fortunate the horoscope (" fortunen the ascendent ") 
of his patient by making images or characters stamped in 
metals or wax at a time when the stars were favorable. Ac- 
cording to one account, these images were fitted to that part 
of the body affected by the disease. This practice Chaucer 
calls " magik naturel." Cf. the following passage from The 
Hous of Fame, III, 169-180 : 

" Ther saw I pleyen jogelours 
And clerkes eek, which conne wel 
Al this magik naturel, 
That craftely don hir ententes, 
To make, in certeyn ascendentes, 
Images, lo ! through swych magik, 
To make a man ben hool or syk." 

429. Esculapius. I.e. /Esculapius, in Greek mythology the 
god and founder of the art of medicine. " The authors here 
mentioned wrote the chief medical text-books of the Middle 
Ages." (Wright.) Some account is given of these forgotten 
worthies in Saunders' Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, 115, and 
in Lounsbury's Chaucer, II, 393. — 440. Sendal. Cf. The 
Debate of the Body and the Soul, p. 128, 1. 38, supra, and 
note. — 442. In pestilence, i.e. during the visitation of the 
terrible plague known as " Black Death." Cf. note to 213, 19. 

203. — 450. To the offrynge. As the word offrynge has 
more than one meaning, this passage is open to more than one 

478 NOTES 

interpretation. Morris thinks that we " have here an allusion 
to the offering on Relic-Sunday, when the congregation went 
up to the altar in succession to kiss the relics." An offering, 
however, may mean simply " the act of going up to the altar 
to present alms." The important point is, however, that when 
the congregation came forward toward the chancel, the Wife of 
Bath insisted upon having a foremost place in the line of wor- 
shippers. — 460. Chirche dore. " The priest married the 
couple at the church-porch, and immediately afterward pro- 
ceeded to the altar to celebrate mass, at which the newly 
married persons communicated " (Morris). See Brand's Pop. 
Antiq., 375 (Chatto and Windus). — 472. Foot mantel. 
A " foot-cloth, safeguard to cover the skirt " (Skeat). 
— 476. The olde daunce, i.e. the old game, or all the old 
customs. Cotgrave quotes the French phrase, " Elle scait 
asses de la vielle danse." 

204. — 491. Suffisaunce. Cf. the noble line in Chaucer's 
Balades de Visage sans Peinture, " And he that hath himself, 
hath suffisaunce," and the Parson in Goldsmith's Deserted 
Village, who was " passing rich with forty pounds a year." — 
497. Firste he wroghte. St. Matt, v : 19. Cf. Piers Plough- 
man, C. XVI, 127. — 510. Chaunterie (or chantry) Lat. 
cantate, Fr. chanter, to sing. The word means either an en- 
dowment for the payment of a priest to sing or say mass for 
the souls of the dead (i.e. the donor, or those designated by 
him) ; or else the church, or chapel, in which such masses were 
celebrated. Dugdale says : " There were thirty-four of these 
chantries established at St. Paul's, which were served by fifty- 
four priests" (Hist. pref. 41). It makes little or no difference 
whether Chaucer (as is often asserted) here means the endow- 
ment, or the chapel or building, since the sense in either case 
is substantially the same. Chaucer's contemporary, Langland, 
says that since the land had been devastated by the pestilence, 
or the " Black Death," many parish priests deserted their 
parishes and went to London to make money by officiating in 
the chantries ; see Prol. to Piers Ploughman, p 158, 81 ff, supra. 


205. — 526. Spiced conscience. There are several ex- 
planations of this obscure passage, but it is not unlikely that 
the exact force of the expression has been lost. Most com- 
mentators think that " spiced " here means " scrupulous," or 
" squeamish," or " over-fastidious," as the word is used in this 
sense by the dramatists Fletcher and Massinger, some two 
centuries later. According to this view, the Parson was not 
" scrupulous about non-essentials, . . . while easy about ' the 
weightier matters of the law' " (Corson). See also Skeat's 
Chancer, and Hinckley's Notes on Chaucer. — 542-544. Reve, 
etc. A steward or a bailiff, as the Reve of a shire or sheriff, 
or, as in this case, the Reve of a manor. Somnour, " an officer 
who summoned delinquents before the ecclesiastical courts." 
Pardoner, one empowered to sell indulgences, or pardons. 
Maunciple, a caterer for a college, or for one of the Inns of 

206. — 562. Tollen thries. Millers were allowed a certain 
proportion of the grain by their customers in payment for 
the grinding. This miller tolled thrice, i.e. took three times the 
proper, or legal, quantity of grain. — 563. Thombe of golde. 
This line has been the occasion of much discussion, but none 
of the explanations so far suggested are entirely convincing. 
It evidently refers to the proverb, " An honest miller has a 
thumb of gold," but the proverb itself is capable of more 
than one interpretation. Whatever the proverb may mean, 
Chaucer's allusion seems to be uncomplimentary to the miller's 
fair-dealing ; he stole corn, he tolled thrice his lawful toll, and 
yet he had a thumb of gold. Gascoigne {Steel Glass, see p. 
340, 1. 278, and note), looking toward a more honest age, uses 
the same expression in an uncomplimentary sense : 

" When millers toll not with a golden thumb." 
209. — 666-667. Gerland ... ale stake. The ale-stake 
was a pole fixed in the front of the tavern and projecting 
horizontally some distance above the ground. From this 
Stake hung an ivy-bush (the usual sign of an inn) and often in 
addition to the bush a garland " made of three equal hoops 

480 NOTES 

at right angles to each other, and decorated with ribands." 
The Sompnour's garland, adorned with flowers, while only a 
single circle or wreath, was as large round as a garland on an 
ale-stake. — 670. Rouncivale. The reference is clearly to 
the hospital of the Blessed Mary of Rouncyvalle, in the parish 
of St. Martin's in the fields at Charing (London), mentioned 
in Dugdale's Monasticon, II, 443 (Skeat). — 685. Vernycle. 
A small copy of the picture of the face of Christ, on a cloth or 
handkerchief, preserved for many centuries at St. Peter's, 
Rome. According to the legend, " the Saviour, at his passion, 
had his face wiped with a handkerchief by a devout female 
attendant, and . . . the cloth became miraculously impressed 
with the image of his countenance." Small copies of this 
portrait, known as Veronica, Veroniculce, or in English ver- 
nicles, were often brought back from Rome by pilgrims as 
tokens of their journey. See " St. Veronica " in Chambers' 
Book of Days, and " vernicle " and " veronica " in Cent. Diet. 

210. — 719. Belle. Presumably the name of an inn: pos- 
sibly it should be Bull. " Stowe mentions an inn named the 
Bull as being near the Tabard; but I have found no mention 
of the Bell" (Wright). 

212. — 785. To make it wys. I.e. "to make it a matter 
of wisdom or deliberation" (Skeat), 

213. — 826. Warteryng of Seint Thomas. Or St. Thomas- 
a-Watering, a brook where horses were watered, which crossed 
the road taken by the pilgrims to St. Thomas's shrine (i.e. to 
Canterbury) near the second milestone. — 835. Draweth out. 
To draw lots. " These cuts are usually made of straws un- 
equally cut, which one hides between his fingers and thumb, 
whilst another draws his fate" (Skeat). 

The P\rdoner's Tale 

An excellent account of this little masterpiece of tragic 
intensity and narrative skill, will be found in Root's Chaucer, 
pp. 222-231. The Pardoner's Tale and its Prologue have been 
edited for the Chaucer Society (Second Series, No. 35), and 


Jusserand has contributed a paper on " Chaucer's Pardoner 
and the Pope's Pardoners " to the publications of the same 
society (Second Series, No. 19). The portion of the Tale 
here omitted consists of an attack upon swearing, gluttony, 
gambling, and other deadly sins. It serves as a kind of pro- 
logue to the story of the three drunken revellers, but it is not 
an essential part of the story itself. 

215. — 2. Prime. In general prime means " the first quarter 
of the day, or the period from 6 to 9 a.m." Prime was also 
one of the " Canonical Hours " that is, one of those stated 
times of the day at which the services of the Church were 
held. It followed after matins and lands. That Chaucer 
refers here to the canonical hour for the service of prime is 
evident from his allusion to the ringing of the bell. See Skeat's 
notes on Chaucer's use of prime, and Cent. Diet. — 4. Belle 
clynke. " A hand bell was carried before a corpse at a 
funeral by the sexton " (Skeat). — 19. Pestilence. Probably 
the first of the four great plagues which devastated England in 
the fourteenth century, that is, the plague of 1348-1349. 
This great plague was severely felt throughout a large 
part of Europe ; it is the one described by Boccaccio in the 

216.-55. God yow see, i.e. keep you in His sight, watch 
over you, or protect you. 

221. — - 239. Avycen, i.e. Avicenna (980-1037), a celebrated 
Arabian physician whose medical works were long used in the 
universities of Europe. — 240. Fen. Avicenna's treatise the 
Canon, or The Book of the Canon of Medicine, is divided into 
books and sections, " and the Arabic word for ' section ' is 
in the Latin version denoted by fen from the Arabic fann, a 
part of any science" (Skeat). Skeat objects to Chaucer's 
expression as " not quite correct," as " he seems to have taken 
canon in its usual sense of rule, whereas it is really the title of 
the whole work." But Chaucer may mean that Avicenna 
never wrote in his book (or canon of medicine), or in "any 
fen or part of his book, not even in that part in which he specifi- 

482 NOTES 

cally treats of poisons (Bk. 4, fen 1) of " mo wonder signes of 

The Compleynt of Chaucer to his Purse 

" This delightful poem, which with delicate humor applies 
the conventional language of amorous poetry to an empty 
purse, is probably among Chaucer's latest compositions. The 
envoy at any rate, addressed to Henry IV as ' conquerour of 
Brutes Albioun,' cannot have been written earlier than Sep- 
tember 30, 1399, when Parliament formally acknowledged . . . 
Henry's right to the throne" (Root's Chaucer, p. 78). 

The Ballad of Good Counsel, or Truth 

This also is a poem of Chaucer's later years, — the years in 
which he knew poverty and adversity. It was not Chaucer's 
nature to take the world into his confidence ; like Shakespeare 
he is objective, telling us little about his inner life and personal 
opinions. But here, for once, he reveals his heart, giving us 
his mature verdict on life, and we feel that here at least we 
touch for a moment the man Chaucer as he was. It has been 
remarked by the critics that the Ballad is partly based on 
certain passages in Boethius' Consolations of Philosophy, 
and Professor Skeat refers to St. John, viii : 32: "And ye 
shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free," as the 
original of And trouthe shot deliver e, in the line which recurs 
as the refrain of the poem. But the resemblances to Boethius 
are slight and of no great importance, and the resemblance 
to the passage in St. John consists rather in a verbal similarity 
than in an identity of meaning. By truth, St. John means dis- 
tinctly the truths of Christianity, whereas Chaucer means 
something wider and less definite. Toward the close of his 
active career, Chaucer expresses his weariness of the shams, 
the bitter rivalries, the luxury, and the envyings of the world 
and the Court, and turns with relief to sothfastnesse, — the 
substantial world of reality, or truth — that shall deliver him. 


Lay aside avarice and lust of gain, and reality will certainly 
set you free. And again, truth is not merely reality, but right- 
eousness. Do not torment yourself to set the crooked straight ; 
reform yourself, you who fuss and fret to reform the world, 
and trust truth, — that power of righteousness, — stronger 
than the power of man, to mend and liberate, 

'' And trouthe shal delivere it is no drede." 
Though we should strive to set things right here, we cannot. 
In this world we must have troubles, its weakness provokes a 
fall ; endure patiently, thankfully, as a pilgrim who passes 
through a wilderness, looking on high to the end of the journey, 
and truth will deliver you. See Root's Chaucer, p. 73, and cf. 
Langland's tribute to truth (p. 160, 11. 149 ff. in this volume), 
and the various poems (as The Lie, ascribed to Raleigh) on 
the vanity of the courtier's life, and the longing for truth and 


Chaucer and Gower were long looked up to as the two most 
eminent poets of their day. Many of the chief poets of the 
fifteenth century — Occleve, James I, Dunbar — acknowledge 
their debt to Gower, as well as to Chaucer, and speak of the 
two poets with almost equal reverence. So late as the latter 
part of the sixteenth century, Sir Philip Sidney speaks of 
" Gower and Chaucer " as the two great pioneers among the 
English poets. This traditional association of Chaucer and 
Gower has lasted 'down to our own day. But, while it has 
become a convention to speak of the two poets together, the 
association has become largely formal, and in reality Chaucer 
is loved and studied, while Gower is but seldom read. No one 
with any trace of poetry in his composition can turn from the 
living art of Chaucer to the interminable moralizings of his 
solemn contemporary, and not feel that there are good reasons 
for this, which no argument is likely to overcome. Yet if we 
study Gower for himself, apart from his greater contemporary, 

484 NOTES 

we find that he is by no means without interest as a man, and 
that even his works (formidable and dull as they undoubtedly 
are) have been unduly neglected. Gower was born in or 
about 1325. He died in 1408. He was, therefore, some fifteen 
years older than his friend Chaucer, and he survived him for 
eight years. He came of a Kentish family. He was in com- 
fortable circumstances (owning lands in Norfolk and Suffolk), 
and he appears to have spent the greater part of his life in 
London. Towards the end of his life he had lodgings in the 
old Priory in St. Mary's in Southwark, not far from the Tabard 
Inn, and he was buried in the Priory church, now St. Saviour's, 
where his tomb can still be seen. He was a man of considerable 
learning for his time, and an indefatigable writer. His prin- 
cipal poems are the Speculum Meditantis, in French, the Vox 
Clamantis, in Latin, and the Confessio Amantis, in English. 
Judging from these works, Gower and Chaucer looked at the 
world with very different eyes. In his poems Gower reveals 
himself as a sincere patriot, and a zealous reformer. He 
impresses us as a man of deeply serious nature and lofty aims, a 
born preacher, but devoid of any saving sense of humour. 
Chaucer addressed him as " O moral Gower," and he is called 
" the moral Gower " to this day. It is more gracious to please 
than to rebuke, to amuse than to instruct ; it may even be that 
Chaucer's fun and human sympathy d d more for England 
than Gower's didacticism. Yet there is romething in Gower 
that commands our respect, and his place in the life and litera- 
ture of his time is deserving of something more than a formal 
recognition. (See Cambridge Eng. Lit., Vol v II, Chap. VI, and 
accompanying bibliography; Morley's E. W ., IV, p. 150; and, 
for an amusing but severe attack on Gower's poetry, Lowell's 
essay on " Chaucer," Pros„ Works, III, 329.) 

The Praise or Peace 

This poem was addressed to King Henry IV upon his acces- 
sion, October, 1399, and was therefore written during the latter 
part of that year, Mr, E, B. Nicholson suggested the sub- 


stitution of an English title, The Praise of Peace, for the Latin 
one, Be Pacis Commendatione, which appears in the manu- 
script. The full title, as given in the colophon, was as follows : 
Explicit carmen de pacis commendacione, quod ad laudem el 
memoriam serenissimi principis domini Regis Henrici quarti, 
suus humilis orator Johannes Gower composuit. Passages in 
Gower's writings (Vox Clamantis, Confessio Amantis, and 
Cronica Tripartita) show that the poet had been greatly 
troubled by the abuses and misgovernment of Richard's II's 
reign, and that his early hopes for the youthful Richard had 
been changed into bitter disappointment. (See Cambridge 
Eng. Lit., II, 156.) When Henry IV came to the throne, the 
old poet's hopes revived, and in The Praise of Peace, he wel- 
comed the new king as one who would bring in a new and 
better time. As Mr. G. C. Macaulay says : In this poem " the 
author's ideal of a King, as one who above all things should 
promote peace at home and abroad, is set forth with the enthu- 
siasm of one who, after long waiting, at length sees his hopes 
for his country fulfilled." 


Chaucer's influence on the course of English poetry may be 
compared to that of Dryden three centuries later ; indeed, it 
was probably even more extended and unquestioned. All 
through the fifteenth century, Chaucer dominated the poetry 
not only of England, but of Scotland as well. His successors 
seemed proud to call him father and master ; they copied his 
manner, and were often influenced by his example in the choice 
of themes. So faithfully did they follow in his footsteps that 
it was not always easy for the uncritical reader to distinguish 
the work of the pupil from that of the master. So it happened 
that many poems composed under Chaucer's influence were 
for a long time ascribed to Chaucer himself. This confusion 
(as Skeat points out) was largely due to the inclusion of numer- 
ous poems by writers of the Chaucerian school in an early 

486 NOTES 

edition of Chaucer's works (1532). This book was, says Skeat, 
"a collection from the works of Chaucer and other writers." 
But as this practice of including non-Chaucerian poems in 
editions of Chaucer was followed by later editions, and as no 
clear distinction was drawn between those pieces that were by 
Chaucer and those that were not, all the poems naturally came 
to be received as Chaucer's work. Some of the poems thus 
incorporated with the works of Chaucer were by well-known 
writers such as Gower and Lydgate, but the authors of others 
are now unknown. 

The Flower and the Leaf is one of the best of these anony- 
mous poems of the Chaucerian school. No manuscript of it is 
known to exist, and it was first included in the printed works of 
Chaucer by Speght in 1597-1598. Skeat remarks that it is 
one of the few poems previous to 1500 which purport to have 
been written by a woman. The language shows it to be later 
than 1400, and it is " conjecturally put at about the middle of 
the fifteenth century." It contains about 600 lines. It was 
modernized by Dryden (who believed it to be Chaucer's) in 
1700, by Lord Thurlow in 1822, and by Powell (assisted by 
Wordsworth) in 1841. 

A brief selection from Dryden's version, with its characteris- 
tic eighteenth-century embellishments, may be of interest : 

" Thus as I mused, I cast aside my eye, 
And saw a medlar-tree was planted nigh. 
The spreading branches made a goodly show, 
And full of opening blooms was every bough : 
A goldfinch there I saw with gaudy pride 
Of painted plumes, that hopp'd from side to side, 
Still pecking as she pass'd ; and still she drew 
The sweets from e ,T ery flower, and suck'd the dew : 
Sufficed at length, she warbled in her throat, 
And tuned her voice to many a merry note, 
But indistinct, and neither sweet nor clear, 
Yet such as sooth'd my soul, and pleased my ear." 

229. — 49. Herber. See note 187, 199, supra. In the pres- 
ent instance, however, the herber has a roof. 



The Cuckoo and the Nightingale 

Sir Thomas Clanvowe, to whom this poem is attributed, was 
a gentleman of Herefordshire, a courtier in the reign of Richard 
II, and Henry IV, and a friend of the young " Prince Hal," 
afterwards Henry V. The date of the poem is placed between 
1403 and 1410, or shortly after the death of Chaucer. It has 
been compared to The Owl and the Nightingale (see p. 136, 
supra), and, as Professor Skeat points out, Milton evidently 
had it in mind when he wrote his youthful sonnet To the 
Nightingale. The first two lines of the passage here given (" The 
god of Love, A ! benedicite ! " etc.) are borrowed from Chaucer's 
Knight's Tale, 11. 927-928. For the whole of The Cuckoo and 
the Nightingale see Skeat's Chaucerian and other Pieces; and 
for Clanvowe consult the " Introduction " to the same volume. 


John Lydgate was not only an admirer and imitator of 
Chaucer's works, he appears to have known Chaucer personally 
and to have gone to him for help and criticism, so that the 
master might " amende and correct the wronge traces of " 
his " rude penne." Lydgate got his name from his birthplace, 
the village of Lydgate in Suffolk, near the border of Cambridge- 
shire. He was born about 1370, or about thirty years after the 
birth of Chaucer, and died about the middle of the fifteenth 
century. Lydgate became a monk of the Benedictine Abbey 
of Bury St. Edmund's, situated some eight miles from his native 
village. In his Lament for the Makers Dunbar alludes to him 
as " the monk of Bury " (see p. 266), and groups him with 
Chaucer and Gower. Lydgate has been called " the most 
productive and multifarious poet of his century." It has been 
estimated that his extant works (including the ponderous 
Troy Book and The Falls of the Princes) reach to a total length 
of about 140,000 lines. Except to the special student, Lyd- 
gate is now but little more than a name. So vast is the bulk 

488 NOTES 

of his poetical production that it has sunk beneath the surface 
well-nigh submerged by its own weight. Yet despite the dif- 
fuseness of his style and the roughness of his verse, there is a 
vein of true poetry in Lydgate ; and, as in The Testament, 
the thrill of a deep and genuine feeling. (See " Lydgate " in 
D. N. B. for life and bibliography.) 


Thomas Hoccleve (or Occleve) was born about 1368-13 70. 
He was therefore exactly, or almost exactly, the same age as 
his fellow disciple of Chaucer, Lydgate, with whom he is com- 
monly associated. The place of his birth is uncertain, but his 
life was chiefly passed in London, where, like his master Chau- 
cer, he held a government position, being one of the clerks in the 
office of the Keeper of the Privy Seal. This post he held for 
over thirty years. According to his own account in a poem 
called La Male Regie, he was over-fond of pleasure in his 
youth, he loved drinking and good eating, and while his earn- 
ings were very small, he was inclined to be lavish with the little 
that he had. Hoccleve appears to have been a man of weak 
but amiable character, and he tells us about himself, his follies, 
his sickness, his troubles, his repentance, with a frankness and 
simplicity that often win our sympathy and our interest. 
His most pretentious work is The Regimen of Princes, a long 
didactic poem, composed about 1411-1412, and dedicated to 
Prince Henry, the future King Henry V. The Prologue to 
this poem contains many autobiographical confessions, as well 
as the familiar passage on Chaucer, his " master dear and father 
reverent." These lines to Chaucer are not merely the tribute 
of a follower to one who was his model and master .in the art of 
poetry ; they are rather touched with the grief and respect of a 
personal loss. Chaucer is Hoccleve's " Father " as well as 
" master," and many things suggest to us that the bond be- 
tween the two poets was one of personal affection as well as of 
literary discipleship. The human interest and true feeling in 
the Prologue have still power to touch us, while the long moral 


disquisition of The Regimen of Princes leaves us cold. About 
1416-1421 Hoccleve went mad; and although he recovered, his 
old friends turned from him, and he was forgotten. This illness 
and its lessons is the subject of his poem The Complaint 
p. 238). In 1424 Hoccleve was granted a " corrody," i.e. he 
was given the right to be maintained at a certain monastery, 
and so provided for, in his declining years. According to the 
traditional belief, he lived for some twenty-five years after 
retiring from his clerical duties, dying about the middle of the 
century, or about the same time as his brother-poet, Lydgate. 
The selections given in the text are taken from a collection of 
Hoccleve's " Minor Poems," edited by Dr. F. J. Furnival, 
E. E. T., extra series, LXI. 

Thomas Hoccleve's Complaint 

238. — 2. Sesoun of Michlaemesse. — In the Roman and 
Anglican churches the feast of St. Michael and x\ll Angels, or 
Michaelmas, falls on September 29. 

240. — 8. In the Psalter. Psalm xxxi : 11, 12, cf. also 
Psalm lxxxviii. 

A Lament for Chaucer 

242. — 36. Cumber-world. I.e. Death, the encumberer, 
burden, or hindrance of the world. Cumber-world also means 
a useless person or thing, an encumbrance in the world ; Dray- 
ton, Eclogues, II. 

243. — 53. Firste finder. Probably means here first-discov- 
erer, not the first poet of our language, as the expression is 
sometimes explained. Of course Chaucer did not literally 
discover the English language ; but he was the first great poet 
to disclose, or discover, its resources. Moreover, he trusted 
his native tongue, when some of his contemporaries were doubt- 
ful or were still writing in Latin, or in French. Gower, for 
instance, wrote three long poems, one in Latin, one in French, 
and one in English ; and the rise of English prose was just 

490 NOTES 

beginning under Wyclif and some others. Similarly, Chaucer 
speaks of " Pictagoras " as the " first finder " (or discoverer) 
of "the art of song" {Dethe of Blaunche, 1. 1168). — 70. I 
have here his likeness. An allusion to the well-known portrait 
of Chaucer as an old man, which Hoccleve had painted on the 
margin of the manuscript (Harl. Ms. 4688) opposite to this 
stanza. Ward ("Chaucer," p. 3, E. M. L.) says that Hoccleve 
painted this picture himself, but Hoccleve tells us that he 
caused it to be made (Do make), and implies that he assisted 
the artist by his vivid remembrance of Chaucer's appearance. 

Chanson to Somer 

This graceful little poem is addressed to Sir Henry Somer, 
Chancellor of the Exchequer, and one of Hoccleve's friends and 
patrons. The poem thus turns upon the pun on the words 
" somer" and " summer." It is both a delicate tribute to Somer 
and a clever reminder of Hoccleve's dependence upon his 


Stephen Hawes was a court poet during the reigns of Henry 
VII and Henry VIII. He is thought to have been born in 
Suffolk, probably about 1474-1475, and he is known to have 
died before 1530. He studied at Oxford, travelled abroad, 
and returned " a complete gentleman " and " a master of sev- 
eral languages." Henry VII, who esteemed him " for his face- 
tious discourse and prodigious memory," gave him a place in 
the royal household. His principal works are his two didactic 
and allegorical poems, The Pastime of Pleasure and The Ex- 
ample of Virtue; he also wrote a number of minor poems. 

In actual time Hawes stands about midway between two 
great epochs ; the age of Chaucer, and the age of Spenser and 
Shakespeare. We may find his poetry tedious, but historically 
Hawes is a link between Chaucer and Spenser, and in reading 
The Pastime of Pleasure we are almost equally impressed with 
its reminiscences of the old romances and with its dim antici- 


pation of the glories of the Faerie Queene. The purpose of The 
Pastime of Pleasure is similar to that of a morality play, or, 
indeed, to Pilgrim's Progress; it is designed to show in an alle- 
gory " the course of man's life in this world." The life of 
noble endeavor, of the world out of the cloister, is personified, 
or illustrated by a knight called Graunde Amour. He is trained 
in knowledge and in chivalry, encounters and vanquishes temp- 
tations, meets and marries a beautiful lady, La Belle Pucel, 
and after living happily with her dies in his old age, attended 
by Contrition and Conscience, buried by Mercy and Charity. 
Remembraunce makes a " little epitaphy " of his grave, a part 
of which is given in the text. While he speaks respectfully of 
Gower and Chaucer, Hawes repeatedly alludes to Lydgate, 
" the monk of Bury," as his master. The Pastime of Pleasure 
has been edited by Thomas Wright for the Percy Society ; it is 
also given in Southey's Early British Poets. For Hawes' life, 
see Anthony a Wood's Athence Oxonienses. 

244. — 1. O Earth! on earth, etc. The resemblance be- 
tween the first three stanzas here given and the poem on 
Earth (p. 170, supra) is so close that it can hardly be accidental. 

245. — 36. The pomped carkes. I have adopted the emenda- 
tion of this line suggested by Mr. Murison (see Cambridge Hist. 
Eng. Lit. II. 269). The usual reading — "The pomped clerkes 
with foles delicious," if not " absolutely without meaning," is at 
best suspiciously obscure. Pomped carkes = pampered carcase, or 
body. Pomp and pomped are variants of pamp, to gorge, or to 
cram ; they should not be confused with pomp, display, splendor. 
See N. E. D. pomp, pamp. 



The fifteenth century was a memorable one in Scottish litera- 
ture. From about 1425, the example and influence of Chaucer 
began to affect the poetry of Scotland ; the poetry of the Eng- 

492 NOTES 

lish Court and capital was carried beyond the Border, and a 
remarkable succession of poets arose in the Scottish Lowlands, 
— King James I, Henry son, Dunbar, and others, — who took up 
and continued the poetic tradition of Chaucer and his French 
masters. This spread of Chaucer's influence in Scotland was 
largely due to James I, the earliest of Chaucer's Scottish fol- 
lowers. This prince, it will be remembered, had been brought 
into direct contact with the English poetry and culture by the 
singular chances of his career. In 1405, when he was in his 
eleventh year, he fell into the hands of King Henry IV, who, 
for political reasons, detained him in England. He was not 
formally released until 1423, eighteen years later, when Henry 
V was on the throne. At first James was imprisoned in the 
Tower, but later he was less strictly confined and given ample 
opportunities for a liberal education. He had come to Eng- 
land a lad of eleven, he left it a man of nearly thirty. He loved 
music and poetry ; he grew to manhood in a land and at a time 
in which the poetry of Chaucer and Gower was read, admired, 
and often imitated, by people of the upper and cultured classes, 
so James read, admired, and imitated them also, taking them 
for his " maisters dear " and commending their souls to heaven. 
In 1424, James (who by this time had become the lawful sov- 
ereign of Scotland) was married to Lady Jane Beaufort, a 
kinswoman of Henry V. Shortly after he returned to Scotland 
as king. In 1437 he was brutally murdered by a band of 
Scottish nobles, after a vigorous rule of twelve years. His 
poem, The King's Quair (or King's Book), is a love-allegory. 
Together with much mythological and other matter, he de- 
scribes the King's captivity, his first sight of his lady (Jane 
Beaufort), as she walked in the garden " faste by the Touris 
wall," and the happy end of his suit. He thanks his fortunate 
exile, he thanks the very castle wall, for through all adventures 
he has gained his heart's health and comfort. The only extant 
manuscript text of the King's Quair is in the Bodleian Library, 
Oxford. It is thought to date from the last quarter of the 
fifteenth century. In the manuscript the poem is declared 


to have been " maid be King James of Scotland the first callit 
the Kingis quair and maid quhen his Majestie Was In Ingland." 
This declaration of authorship is repeated at the end of the 
poem. In spite of this, and of other evidence, the poem has 
not escaped the destructive zeal of some modern critics, and the 
King's authorship has been more than once denied. The 
King's Quair, together with A Ballad of Good Counsel, has 
been edited by W. W. Skeat, S. T. S., 1884. 

The King's Quair 

246. — 1. Bewailing in my chamber. In the stanzas pre- 
ceding, the poet tells of his capture while on his way to France 
and of his " strict imprisonment." He then goes on to tell 
how often he would bewail his unhappy life, envying the birds, 
the beasts, the fish, their freedom. It is during one of these 
times of despair that he walks to the window of his prison, — 
as we are told in the first stanza here given, — to distract his 
mind from sad thoughts. James was confined in Windsor 
Castle during the absence of Henry V, on his first expedition to 
France, and it has been conjectured that Windsor was the scene 
of the poem. 

247. — 10. An arbour. Cf. note on Herber, 187, 199. " We 
have here a sketch of the mode or taste in gardening in the re- 
mote age of Henry V in England. The royal garden under the 
castle walls of Windsor was laid out in flower-plots and alleys, 
or walks with arbours of lattice or trellis-work at the ends or 
corners of the walks ; the whole surrounded with hawthorn 
hedges interspersed with juniper." See Works of James I, 
Glasgow, 1825, in note on p. 86. 

A Ballad of Good Counsel 

This poem, obviously patterned upon Chaucer's Ballad 
" Flee fro the pres " (p. 223), and early attributed to James I, 
is accepted as genuine by Professor Skeat. 

494 NOTES 


Robert Henryson, or Henderson, was not only one of the most 
eminent and successful imitators of Chaucer, he was also a 
poet of independent and original power. His inspiration was 
not drawn wholly from books ; he excelled in more than one 
province of poetry, and besides continuing the Chaucerian 
tradition, he, in his turn, gave a fresh impulse to certain kinds 
of poetical composition. In The Tale of Orpheus and in The 
Testament of Cresseid, he follows in the footsteps of his English 
master ; but in his rustic dialogue Robene and Makyne, com- 
monly classed as the earliest English pastoral, he is himself a 
master, rather than a pupil. His Fables — more vigorous, I 
think, than Gay's, and not unworthy of comparison with La 
Fontaine's — are not mere echoes, but old things are made new. 
In telling these old fables, Henryson shows a sense of humour, 
an ability to see with his own eyes, and a dramatic vigour, that 
entitle him to a high place among the masters of narrative 
poetry. Henryson had also a good ear for melody ; he has 
even been called the earliest " pure lyrist among the Scottish 
poets." (See " Henryson " in D. N. B.) He thus holds an 
honored and important place in the moral fable, the pastoral, 
(or pastoral-ballad), and the lyric. 

Of Henryson himself almost nothing is known. He is sup- 
posed to have been born about 1425, and to have died about 
1506. He was certainly a schoolmaster at Dunfermline; and 
as he was " probably " in holy orders, it is conjectured that 
" he held a clerical appointment within Dunfermline Abbey." 
He was a Master of Arts, and as his name does not appear on 
the lists of either of the two universities then in Scotland, 
he is inferred to have taken his degree abroad. Henryson's 
death is referred to in Dunbar's Lament for the Makers (p. 267), 
written before 1508. Henryson's Poems and Fables have been 
collected and edited by David Laing. 


Complaint of Cresstd 

This, as the poet himself suggests, is a continuation of Chau- 
cer's Troilus and Cressida. The poem contains 616 lines, only 
the conclusion being here given. The terrible fate of the faith- 
less and once beautiful Cressida, deserted by Diomede, stricken 
with leprosy and compelled to consort with the lepers, is told 
with tenderness and tragic power. The poet, musing on her 
story, as told by the master Chaucer, pities her " mischance." 

" Yit nevertheless, quhat-ever men deme or say 
In scornful langage of thy brukilnes, 
I sail excuse, als far-furth as I may, 
Thy womanheid, thy wisdom, and fairness, 
The quilk Fortoun hes put to sic distres 
As hir pleisit, and na-thing throw the gilt 
Of thee, throw wikkit langage to be spilt." 

The Testament was included in Thynne's edition of Chaucer, 

. The Tale of the Paddock and the Mouse 

258. — 89. The murther-aith. This is apparently an oath by 
which a person solemnly binds himself not to murder or injure 
another, or deceive him to his hurt. The oath is referred to as 
though it were well known, but I can find no other direct refer- 
ence to it. The following oath, of a somewhat similar character, 
was taken by persons who were suspected of murder or felony, 
and admitted to bail. While this form belongs ostensibly to 
the reign of Queen Elizabeth there is good reason to suppose 
that it dates from an earlier time. 

"The Oath of such as are to be bayled upon supposition for 
Felony or Murder." 

"I A. B. shall from henceforth during all my life, be true 
Liegeman, and true faith beare unto our Soveraigne Ladie 
Elizabeth, and to her Heires and Successors Kings and Queenes 
of this Realme ; and shall commit no Murder, Treason, or 
Misprision of Treason, nor consent or agree to any such Of- 
fence, nor shall know any perill or damage to his Grace or to the 

496 NOTES 

Realme, or other Dominions aforesaid, but shall reveale and 
disclose it with all speed unto such as have the Lawes in Gov- 
ernment ; nor shall commit any Felony or Murder or be acces- 
sary to any such Offence or Offences : but shall live a good and 
obedient Subject during my life. So helpe me God, and the 
Contents of this Booke " {The Book of Oaths and the Several 
forms thereof, etc. London, 1649). 


William Dunbar, now often ranked as the greatest poet of 
Scotland before Burns, was born about 1460, in the Scottish 
Lowlands, not far from Edinburgh. He is supposed to have 
been sent to St. Andrews, and to have received the degree of 
B.A. from that university in 1477, and of M.A. two years 
later. Though come of a noble family, Dunbar appears to 
have been poor, or at least dependent upon his own exertions. 
After leaving the university, he became a novice in the Francis- 
can order of Friars. For some years he led the life of a working 
friar, " making good cheer in every flourishing town in Eng- 
land between Berwick and Calais," preaching at Dernton and 
Canterbury, and even crossing to France. By 1500 he was 
back in Scotland, a pensioner of King James IV, who appears 
to have employed him on various embassies. He had aban- 
doned the friar's gown and become a priest ; he lived on the 
king's bounty ; he wrote poems on state occasions, such as The 
Thrissil and the Rose, and virtually, if not technically, seems to 
have held a position similar to that of Poet Laureate. In 
numerous poems he appealed to the king for a more substantial 
reward for his services. The king's defeat and death at Flodden 
Field in 15 13 appears to have been a heavy blow to Dunbar's 
fortunes. He is thought to have survived this national disaster 
some seven years, and to have written many of his religious 
poems during this time. 

Famous in his own age, he was for a long time neglected and 
almost forgotten. His poems were not reprinted until the latter 
part of the eighteenth century, and no complete edition of them 


appeared until as late as 1834. Sir Walter Scott placed him on 
a level with Chaucer, and declared that he was " unrivalled by 
any (poet) which Scotland ever produced." Lowell, on the 
other hand, found him " tedious and pedantic," and declared 
that what Dunbar " means for humour is but the dullest vul- 
garity." Scott was certainly nearer the truth than Lowell, but 
it is not unlikely that in his enthusiasm for a poet long neglected 
and even then little read, he was too generous in his praise. 
Dunbar's poetry is so varied in quality and character, its range 
from the height of beauty or solemn meditation to the depth 
of repulsive vulgarity or scurrilous license is so wide, that a 
just estimate of him could only be formed after a dispassionate 
and comprehensive study of his entire works. Yet whether we 
are attracted or disgusted, we cannot but be impressed by 
Dunbar's magnificent command of language, and by his abound- 
ing and masculine power. 

No Treasure without Gladness 

260. — 10. For warldes wrack, etc. Wrack (or wreck) 
means here trash,' refuse. The sense is: "But (i.e without) 
welfare, spiritual well-being, gladness, contentment, the world's 
wealth (which is but wrack or dross) avails nothing." — 12. 
Remanent all, etc. All that remains (i.e. the surplus wealth 
which you do not spend), you only possess with sorrow. 

261. — 33. Though all the wealth, etc. " There is one 
expression in it (this poem) which ought to be remembered, as 
containing more good sense than some systems of ethics : 

... no more thy pairt dois fall, 

Bot meit, drink, clais, and of the laif a sight. 

In modern language Dunbar would have expressed himself 
thus : 

What riches give us, let us then explore ; 
Meat, drink, and clothes ; what else ? a sight of more ! " 
Hailes, quoted in Laing's ed., II, 346. 

498 NOTES 

To a Lady 

Alexander Smith says of this poem : " It is turned with much 
skill and grace. The constitutional melancholy of the man 
comes out in it ; as, indeed, it always does when he finds a seri- 
ous topic. It possesses more tenderness and sentiment than is 
his usual. It is the night-flower among his poems, breathing a 
mournful fragrance." (Dreamthorp, essay on " Dunbar.") 

The Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins 

The Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins has been called Dunbar's 
masterpiece. When we recall Dunbar's successes in poetry 
of a widely different character, such an assertion seems unneces- 
sarily dogmatic ; it is enough to say that the Dance is preemi- 
nent among his satirical and allegorical poems. The theme is a 
striking one. The Devil selects the eve of Lent, — a time when 
men, looking forward to the season of long fast and penance, 
were fond of indulging in the maddest license and buffoonery 
— for a dance of the lost souls. It is the eve of Shrove-tide, — ■ 
that is, the time when the faithful on earth are shriven, or 
absolved from sin, — but these who dance in the air at the 
Devil's bidding are the unshriven, whose time for pardon has 
passed. The Seven Deadly Sins begin the wild dance, Pride 
(the sin that caused the fall of Lucifer) taking the lead. These 
deadly, or mortal sins, must have had a positive personality 
in the popular imagination at this time. They had been graphi- 
cally presented in Langland's Piers the Ploughman, and it is 
not unlikely that they figured in the religious pageants. At a 
later period Spenser introduces into the Faerie Queene the 
Deadly Sins, passing in a procession from the palace of Pride. 
The idea of a dance of Sins, a device by which mirth and revelry 
were placed in a grotesque juxtaposition with horror and de- 
spair, may possibly have been borrowed from the medieval 
Dance of Death. In any case, we are chiefly concerned with the 
use Dunbar makes of his materials. The time, the place, the 
unearthly and doomed masquers, all combine to produce an 


effect similar, but superior, to the dance of the witches in 
Tarn O'Shanter. 

262. — 6. Mahoun. I.e. the Devil. The word Mahoun is 
one of the numerous early forms of Mahomet, or Mohammed, 
the Arabian prophet. In the Middle Ages heretics and false 
prophets were looked upon as instigated by or in league with 
Satan, and so Mahomet was identified or confused with the 
Devil. See also " Maumet," " Mammet," in Cent. Diet. — 8. Fas- 
tern's even. The same as fastens-eve, the evening preceding 
Lent, or Shrove- Tuesday. It was a season of riotous festivity. 
Selden writes, " What the church debars us one day she gives 
us leave to take out another. First there is a Carnival, and 
then a Lent." See " Shrove-Tide," in Brand's Pop. Antiq., 
from which the above quotation is taken. — n. To cut up 
capers, etc. The original is : " and kast up gamountis in the 
skyiss." Gamountis (gambols, capers) is allied to the French 
gambade. Warton quotes the following from a memoir con- 
cerning the progress of the Princess Margaret into Scotland : 
" The Lord of Northumberland made his devoir, at the depart- 
ynge, of gambades and lepps (leaps), as did likewise the Lord 
Scrope, the father, and many others that returned agayne, in 
taking their congee." — 12. In France. The intimate rela- 
tions which existed between Scotland and France are a matter 
of familiar history. When Dunbar wrote, French fashions were 
in vogue at the Scottish court. — 18. Vastie wanis. " As if 
he would lay dwellings in ruins — i.e. knock everything to 
destruction" (Gregor). 

264. — 66. Brief of richt. I.e. by Breve of Recto, a writ 
which in feudal Scotland established a right to succession. — 
67. Heilan' Padyane. " This whole stanza is employed in 
satirizing the Highlanders. Dunbar was a Lothian man, born 
in a Saxon county. The antipathy which the Scottish Saxons 
bore to the Highlanders in former times is almost incredible." 
(Hales.) Long after Dunbar's time the Highlanders were 
looked upon with a feeling of mingled dread and contempt by 
the more settled and prosperous people of the South. See, e.g. 

500 NOTES 

the attitude of Baillie Nichol Jarvie towards his Highland kins- 
man in Scott's Rob Roy. — 68. Makfadyane. Gregor points 
out that this refers to an opponent of Wallace described by 
Blind Harry, the old Scotch poet. He swore allegiance to 
Edward I, who gave him Argyle and Lome. Dunbar's asser- 
tion that he was fetched from a nook in the north is an allusion 
to the fact that Makfadyane fled to " a cave within a clyff of 
stayne under Cragmor," where he was surprised and killed. 

Lament for the Makers 

This Lament — one of the best of Dunbar's moral and reflec- 
tive poems, and one of his best-known works — was printed 
at Edinburgh in 1508. It is probable that it was composed 
shortly before that date (about 1 506-1 507). Its sombre re- 
flections, its melancholy forebodings of the inevitable approach 
of death, were, as we gather from the poem itself, suggested by 
the poet's illness and bodily weakness. But (if the conjectural 
date of its composition be correct) the poet had other reasons 
for depression. Some of Dunbar's poems betray an abundant 
and almost reckless gayety of nature ; he was by no means indif- 
ferent to wealth and advancement, and in his youth he seems 
to have been ready to enjoy the comforts and pleasures of this 
world to the full. But by 1508 Dunbar was young no longer; 
all his petitions for a benefice had been disregarded, and he had 
known, like Spenser, what " hell it was in suing long to bide." 
He was " feeble with infirmity " ; old age was approaching (for 
although he was only about fifty, old age came earlier in those 
days) ; he saw death taking his friends and " brethren " ; and 
disappointed, perhaps neglected for younger favorites, he faced 
his own departure. So life, to Dunbar, took " a sober coloring 
from an eye, that had kept watch o'er man's mortality." In all 
likelihood, the circumstances in which the Lament was com- 
posed were similar to those which prompted Chaucer's Ballad 
of Good Counsel (p. 223) ; but the spirit of the two poems is 
characteristically different. Indeed, the spirit of the Lament 
is much closer to certain ballads of the French poet, Francois 


Villon (1431 to about 1484), whose poems were posthumously 
printed in 1489. It is quite possible, as some have thought, 
that this resemblance was not merely accidental, and that the 
Scotch poet was directly influenced by the French. On the 
other hand, it must be remembered that the theme of such a 
poem as the Lament is so obvious as to be the common property 
of the poets, and that it was a favorite one with medieval 
writers, in particular, and especially congenial to the medieval 
temper. Cf. Villon's Ballad of Dead Ladies (translated by 
Rossetti) and Hale's Love Letter, p. 123, supra. 

264. Makers. I.e. poets. Sir Philip Sidney writes : " The 
Greekes called him a Poet, which name hath, as the most ex- 
cellent, gone through other languages. It cometh of this word 
Poiein, which is to make ; wherein I know not, whether by 
luck or wisdome, wee Englishmen have mette with the Greekes, 
in calling him a maker." (Apology for Poetrie.) — 4. Timor 
Mortis, etc. Laing thinks that his refrain was borrowed from 
a poem by Lydgate, beginning, " So as I lay the other night." 
Gregor suggests that " the poet may have had in mind the 
words, Circumdederunt me dolores mortis, Ps. cxv : 3." 

265. — 9. The state of man, etc. Such, we suspect, was 
Dunbar; a man " always in extremes," now " dancing merry, 
now like to dee." Certain critics, such as Matthew Arnold, 
have contended that this mercurial temperament is characteris- 
tic of the Celt as distinguished from the more stolid and steadfast 
English. Without disputing the truth of this in the abstract, 
it is worth noting that Dunbar, a West-Lowlander, appears to 
have been English (or mainly English) by descent. Dunbar, 
moreover, is fond of having his fling at the Celt. He jeers at 
Kennedy, a contemporary poet, for his Celtic dress and pro- 
nunciation, and in The Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins (p. 262) 
he represents the Devil as deafened with the din raised by the 
tattered Highlander (the true Celt) who " clatters " in Gaelic. 

266. — 50. The noble Chaucer, etc. To the student of 
literary history Dunbar's list of his fellow-poets is one of the 
most interesting and valuable features of this poem. He 

502 NOTES 

mentions twenty-four poets, the first three English, the rest 
certainly, or presumably, Scotch. The earliest poets men- 
tioned belong to the fourteenth century ; the latest are Dunbar's 
own contemporaries ; so that in time the list covers a period 
of more than a hundred years. Such a list proves " that there 
had been a continuous stream of Scottish poetry " from the time 
of Barbour in the fourteenth century, and extending through 
Wyntown, Blind Harry, and Henryson " from the middle to 
the end of the fifteenth century, but bearing with it a fair 
number of minor poets whose fame now rests on one or two 
poems almost by chance preserved." (See Mackay's In- 
troduction to Dunbar's Poems, S.T.S.) In this long roll of 
honour Chaucer alone remains a vital force and a familiar 
presence. Three or four others, Barbour, Gower, Lydgate, 
and Henryson, hold a secure and respectable place in literary 
history ; while a few others, such as Blind Harry and Walter 
Kennedy, although less well known, are still nominally re- 
membered. At most, some five or six poets out of the twenty- 
four continue to hold any considerable place in men's memories ; 
the rest are- given over to the antiquarian and the theorist. 
One of these shadowy personages is thought to have been the 
author of a poem still extant but long neglected ; another, Sir 
Hugh of Eglinton, was " probably " the poet known as Huch- 
own of the Awle Royale, and, if so, he was the author of cer- 
tain extant poems which were " probably " written by Huchown ; 
unless (as others contend) Huchown was not the Sir Hugh 
of Eglinton, but Clerk of Tranent. But, while some of these 
poets, thanks to the antiquarians, are thus more or less securely 
established on the right side of oblivion, there are others, yet 
more insubstantial who, in Sir Thomas Browne's phrase, 
" subsist under naked nominations, without deserts and noble 
acts, which are the balsam of our memories." Heriot, for 
instance, is a name and nothing more. If the reader is curious 
to see what has been discovered or conjectured about these 
poets, he may consult the notes in Laing's edition of Dunbar's 
Poems, Vol. II, pp. 355 et seq.; Dunbar's Poems, in S. T. S.; 


Neilson, Huchown of the Aide Ryale. The list is further 
remarkable for its omissions. It is, perhaps, not surprising 
that Langland and Hoccleve should have been passed over 
among the English ; but it is singular, as Laing observes, that 
no mention is made of Thomas the Rhymer and of King 
James I among the Scotch. Gawain Douglas is also omitted ; 
but he was still living, and, perhaps, not near enough to death 
to warrant his inclusion. 


Gawain, or Gavin, Douglas, the third son of the fifth Earl of 
Angus (known as Archibald, " Bell the Cat "), was born about 
1474-1475, perhaps in the Douglas Castle, Lanarkshire, and 
died in 1522. While he was, therefore, about half a century 
younger than Henryson, and about fifteen years younger than 
Dunbar, he only outlived Henryson some sixteen and Dunbar 
some two years. Douglas, the younger son of an illustrious 
and powerful house, was given every educational advantage, 
with the evident purpose of fitting him for an ecclesiastical 
career. After graduating at St. Andrew's in 1494, he con- 
tinued his studies at the University of Paris. By 1496 he had 
been ordained priest, and in 1501 he became Provost of the 
Collegiate Church of St. Giles, in Edinburgh, now usually 
known as St. Giles Cathedral. All of his poetry seems to have 
been composed between the date of his appointment to this 
important office and the battle of Flodden in 15 13. He wrote 
The Palace of Honour, an allegorical poem of over two thou- 
sand lines, which he dedicated to King James IV ; King Hart, 
an allegorical presentation of man's life and its temptations, 
the favorite theme of the morality play; a little play called 
Conscience; and a translation of the Mneid, generally acknowl- 
edged to be his most important work. Whatever may be 
thought of the poetical quality of this version, Douglas's 
Mneid is noteworthy as the earliest attempt to reproduce a 
great classical poem in English verse. The prologues, which 
Douglas prefixed to the various books of his original, contain 

504 NOTES 

some vivid and forcible descriptions of Nature, and are, in- 
trinsically, the most interesting part of the work. The JEneid 
was completed in 15 13, shortly before the battle of Flodden. 
That defeat, a misfortune for Dunbar, had a favorable effect 
on Douglas's fortunes, and in 1515 he was made Bishop of 
Dunkeld. But his prosperity was short-lived. He suffered 
from the political changes and intrigues of the time. In 152 1 
he took refuge in London, where he died of the plague in the 
following year, and was buried in the Hospital Church of the 

The circumstances of his life and his high place involved 
Douglas in the intrigues and political disturbances of his 
time, but he was a man of learning and ability. As a poet, his 
descriptions of Nature are especially admirable. 


Sir David Lyndsay, the last of the Scottish Chaucerians, 
was born in 1490, or some fifteen years after Douglas, and he 
died in, or about, 1555. But Lyndsay, while he was not 
untouched by the Chaucerian traditions, was distinctively 
the spokesman of a new time ; a time that looked toward the 
future rather than toward the past. In Lyndsay's time the 
gathering discontent with the condition of the Church — so 
often expressed by his predecessors — took a definite shape 
in the Reformation. Lyndsay's master-passion was a desire 
for reform in Church and State ; he did not write poetry 
simply in the spirit of the artist ; with him poetry was rather a 
means to an end ; satire and broad humour were his instru- 
ments for bringing about certain moral and social reforms. He 
did not, indeed, formally join the Reformed Church, but he 
was one of those who urged Knox's call to the ministry, and 
he was a Protestant and a reformer at heart. In his moral 
intensity, his unsparing condemnation, his progressive spirit, 
Lyndsay is nearer to the author of Piers the Ploughman than to 
Chaucer ; indeed, he has been called the Langland of Scotland. 
In Lyndsay's verse, as we might expect, beauty, grace, romance, 


and tender sentiment are almost wholly absent, but, — as Sir 
Walter Scott says, — his was the " satiric rage " — 

" Which bursting on the early stage, 
Branded the vices of the age, 
And broke the keys of Rome." 

Lyndsay, like Dunbar, was a courtier. After he left the 
University of St. x\ndrew's, he became attached to the house- 
hold of James IV. He was the companion and playfellow of 
the young Prince, James V, often carrying him on his back " as 
ane chapman beris his pack." About 1530 he was knighted, 
and made Lyon King at Arms, or chief herald of the court. He 
was sent on various foreign missions, and was a member of 
Parliament for two years. He was present at the death of his 
royal patron, James V, in 1442, and in his later years he retired 
to one of the family estates in Fife, known as the Mount, 
where he died in 1555. 

The general character of Lyndsay's works has been already 
indicated ; they are too numerous to be considered here. Men- 
tion may be made, however, of his daring Satire of the Three 
Estates {i.e. the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and the Bur- 
gesses), a Morality play produced before the King and Court 
in 1540—?, a shrewd, coarse, but vigorous attack upon the 
follies and abuses of the time. The Dreme, the earliest and 
one of the most poetical of his works, is fundamentally a ser- 
mon, and a solemn warning to his young king and master, 
James V. It contains an interesting picture of Scotland, rich 
in natural resources, but poverty-stricken and turbulent, 
through vice and misgovernment, and ends with a prayer 
that the king may have grace to rule righteously. The 
Monarchic, or The Dialogue betwixt Experience and ane Cour- 
tiour (1553), Lyndsay's latest poem, is a lengthy survey of the 
history of the world, with a prophecy of the millennium, when 
all things shall be made new. If Lyndsay was not a great 
poet, he was a strong and earnest man: a friend, counsellor, 
and monitor of the king, his sympathies were with the people, 
and for centuries the people of Scotland delighted in his works. 

506 NOTES 

Lyndsay's Poems have been edited by G. Chalmers, 1806, 
and D. Laing, 1879. It is hardly necessary to remind the 
reader that Scott introduces Lyndsay into Marmion. 

The Prologue from the Dream 

272. — 88. Mony rout and roar. Cf. Douglas' translation 
of the Mneid, I, 3, 52 : 

" In the mene quhile, with mony rout and roir 
The see thus troublit, — " 

Also, in the Lowlands of Holland, Child's Ballads, II, 214: 

" The stormy winds did roar again, 
The raging waves did rout." 

Rout seems to be used synonymously with roar, although the 
word is probably connected with the dialectal rut or rote. 
The latter is found in the United States as well as in England, 
especially along the coast of Maine, and means the roaring of 
the surf or breakers on the shore. See N. E. D. under the three 

An Apology for Writing in the Vulgar and Maternal 
This is one of the most interesting and most significant of the 
many references during the Middle English and early Modern 
English periods to the low estimate in which the native lan- 
guage was held as a literary or " learned " tongue. Robert 
of Gloucester (see supra, p. 97), writing at the end of the 
thirteenth century, calls attention to the relative position of 
French and English in England after the Norman Conquest. 
French, he says, was the language of " heiemen," or nobles, and 
English that of " lowe men." The author of the Cursor Mundi, 
writing a little later than Robert of Gloucester, explaining his 
purpose in using English, says : 

" For unlearned Englishman I spell, 
That understandeth what I tell " 

(see supra, pp. 143, 144, 11. 89-114) . One is not surprised, in view 


of the inferior social position of the English people, and in view 
of the undeveloped state of English literature at the end of the 
thirteenth century, to find that English was looked down upon 
by many of the upper classes as a vulgar and uncultivated 
tongue. But that it should be necessary to apologize for it as 
late as 1553, one hundred and fifty years after the death of 
Chaucer, and only four years before the appearance of TotteVs 
Miscellany and the beginning of Elizabethan literature, may 
seem, perhaps, almost incredible. It must be remembered, 
however, that after gaining supremacy over French as a culti- 
vated tongue, English had still to achieve, in opposition to 
Latin, a reputation as a language fit for the use of the 
" learned." Roger Ascham, in the dedication of his Tox- 
ophilus, 1545, like Lyndsay, felt constrained to apologize for 
writing in English. Bacon, the follower of Spenser and 
Shakespeare, as late as 1623, looked upon English as decidedly 
inferior to Latin, the " Universal language." It was Bacon's 
belief that the modern tongues would at one time or another 
" play the bankrupt with books " ; and accordingly, to insure 
for himself a more lasting and universal fame, the politic 
philosopher translated a number of his works from their 
original English into Latin. The Advancement of Learning 
and the Essays were thus transformed. Lyndsay's motive, 
it will be noticed, in writing The Monarchy in English, was 
similar to that which led Wyclif to translate the Bible into 
the language of the masses, — namely, his desire to inform the 
common people. But there is, in addition to this, a strong 
feeling on Lyndsay's part, similar to Chaucer's conviction, 
that it is more fitting for Englishmen to write in their native 
tongue than in any other, however learned it may be. 

273. — 3. In vulgar tongue. Vulgar, not in the secondary 
sense of low or commonplace, but in the fundamental meaning 
of the Latin vulgaris, — of or pertaining to the multitude, the 
masses. 274. — 32. Maist ornate tongue maternal. Ornate, 
here used in the sense of proper, or fitting ; Lat. ornatus from 
ornare, to fit out with necessaries, to equip. 

508 NOTES 

The Restoration of all Things 

275. — 14, 15. Baith starry heaven and chrystalling . . . The 
first and highest heaven movabill. The medieval system 
of astronomy was based upon the Ptolemaic system, as set 
forth in the second century of the Christian era by Ptolemy 
of Alexandria. According to the original Ptolemaic theory, 
there were seven spheres surrounding and revolving about 
the earth beyond the ether. To each of these was attached 
a heavenly body. The first sphere beyond the earth was 
that of the moon. Then came those of Mercury, Venus, 
the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The eighth sphere 
contained the fixed stars, and was called the Firmament. 
Later astronomers conceived a ninth sphere, the Crys- 
talline, beyond the eighth ; and beyond the ninth a tenth, 
called the Primum Mobile. Lyndsay refers here to the three 
outermost spheres by the respective phrases " starry heaven," 
" chrystalling," and " The first and highest heaven movabill." 
The " highest heaven," or tenth sphere, was not to the medie- 
val mind what " heaven " is to the average person to-day, but 
an outer or enclosing sphere, defining the World, and separat- 
ing it from the void beyond. It is this World of the ten con- 
centric spheres that Milton, in Paradise Lost, Bk. II, 1. 105 1, 
pictures as " hanging in a golden chain " from the Empyrean, 
or Heaven, above. Cf. also Paradise Lost, Bk. Ill, 11. 481-483 : 

" They pass the planets seven, and pass the fixed, 
And that crystalline sphere whose balance weighs 
The trepidation talked, and that first moved." 

276. — 28. As meaneth the apostle John. Referring in all 
probability to the vision of the new Jerusalem, Rev. xxi, and 
especially to verses 1-3 : " And I saw a new heaven and a new 
earth : for the first heaven and the first earth were passed 
away ; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy 
city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, 
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a 
great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God 


is with men, and he will dwell with them ..." — 35. The 
whilk with eares, nor with een. Cf. / Cor. ii : 9. 

The Desire for Rest 

277, — 1. All dead things corporal. I.e. all inanimate ma- 
terial objects, and especially, as the subsequent lines indicate, 
the " sun, moon, stars," etc. This anticipation of a time when 
all movement in the physical universe shall cease is a curious 
phase of the early conception of the millennium. It is based 
originally, in all likelihood, upon St. Paul's words {Rom. 
viii : 22) : " For we know that the whole creation groaneth 
and travaileth in pain together until now." Spenser, in the 
last stanza of the unfinished Faerie Qiceene, describes a similar 
state of absolute and universal rest : 

" Then gin I thinke on that which Nature sayd, 
Of that same time when no more Change shall be, 
But stedfast rest of all things, firmely stayd 
Upon the pillours of Eternity, 
That is contrayr to Mutabilitie ; 
For all that moveth doth in Change delight : 
But thence-forth all shall rest eternally 
With Him that is the God of Sabaoth hight : 
O! that great Sabaoth God, grant me that Sabaoth's sight!" 

— 8. Great globe of the firmament . . . the seven planets. 

See note under The Restoration of all Things, 275, 14. — 
15. Angels of the orders nine. Referring to the celestial 
hierarchy. According to Dionysius the Areopagite, who lived 
about 500 a.d., the nine orders, from highest to lowest, were: 
seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominations, virtues, powers, 
principalities, archangels, and angels. 

James, John, and Robert Wedderburn were sons of James 
Wedderburn, a merchant of Dundee. They were all born at 
Dundee, James a few years before and his two brothers a few 
years after 1500, and all three died about the middle of the 
sixteenth century. They were therefore about the same age 

510 NOTES 

as John Knox (1505-15 7 2). Living in that contentious period 
when Rome and Geneva were at strife, the three Wedderburns 
were active on the side of the Reformed Church. Each 
of the three brothers was forced to leave Scotland because 
of his sympathy with the reforming party ; James taking 
refuge in France, John in Germany, and Robert in Paris. All 
three wrote verse, employing their poetical talents in the cause 
of the Reformation. James wrote two plays, which were per- 
formed in the open air near the west gate of Dundee, and all 
the brothers wrote religious verses. Some of these were 
religious paraphrases of popular ballads, or " populaire 
sanges." Some were hymns translated from the German. 
These pieces are thought by some to have been first published 
as broad-sheet-ballads. However this may be, they seem to 
have appeared in some form about 1442-1445. They were 
included in a collection of religious poems entitled Ane Com- 
pendious Buik of Godlie Psalmes and Spiritual Songs, etc., which 
was published in 1567. This book refers in the title-page to a first 
edition, but no copies of this earlier edition are known to exist. 
This book has more than a merely literary importance; 
it has a place in the religious and political history of the nation. 
It stirred and expressed the feelings of the middle class ; it 
took the songs of the people and converted them to the cause 
of religion (often with extraordinary results) ; as poetry, it is 
sometimes ludicrous, sometimes, as in the selections here given, 
ennobled by a deep and true emotion, but it is said to have done 
more for the spread of the Reformation doctrine in Scotland 
than any other single book except the Bible. While the poems 
of the Wedderburns appear in this collection, scholars have 
found it impossible to decide upon the authorship of the indi- 
vidual poems. The authorship of the translations here given 
(although it has been assigned to James Wedderburn) re- 
mains uncertain. The song beginning, " The Pope, that 
Pagan full of pride," effectually introduced by Scott into The 
Abbot, is one of those in the Compendious Buik, and the song 
The Hunt is up (p. 303) appears in a religious garb. 



In contrast to the Wedderburns, Alexander Scott stands 
apart from the poets who found their inspiration in the cause 
of religious reform. He is the chief, almost the only lyrist 
among the older poets of Scotland, and he has been called " the 
Anacreon of old Scottish poetry." Of his life almost nothing 
is certainly known. He was born about 1525, and is supposed 
by some to have been a son of Alexander Scott, prebendary of 
the Chapel Royal at Stirling, but this is only conjecture. From 
various local allusions in his poetry, and from its general tone, 
he appears to have lived in Edinburgh, or in its immediate 
neighborhood. He died about 1584. 

The Lament of the Master of Erskine 

Lord Hailes suggested (Ancient Scottish Poems, p. 314) that 
the Erskyn who is the supposed speaker of this lament, was 
" Robert, Master of Erskine, eldest son of John, fourth Lord 
Erskine, and fifth Earl of Mar." This Master of Erskine was 
killed at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in 1547. He is supposed 
to have been in love with the Queen Dowager, Mary of Lor- 
raine, the widow of James V, and as she (according to John 
Knox) made " grit lamentatioun " when she heard of his fate, 
and " bure his deythe mony dayis in mynd," because she 
" deirlie belovit him," A. K. Donald suggests that the Lament 
may have been written after the news of Erskine's death 
reached the capital. (See Poems of Alexander Scott, ed. by 
A. K. Donald, E. E. T., Extra Series, 85.) 



The famous but vague figure of Thomas of Ercildoune, gen- 
erally known as Thomas the Rhymer, stands at the beginning of 
the literary history of Scotland. He is supposed to have been 
born about 1225 at Ercildoune, now Earlston, a village on the 

512 NOTES 

river Leader, some ten miles to the northeast of the Eildon 
Hills. He died before the close of the thirteenth century. 
His reputation as a poet rests upon tradition, since no poems 
unquestionably his are known to exist. A poem known as 
The Romances and Prophecies of Thomas of Ercildoune (E. E. T., 
I 875), which relates his adventures with the Queen of the 
fairies, has indeed been ascribed to him, as well as a romance of 
Sir Tristrem (S. T. S., 1886), but in both cases his authorship 
is disputed and doubtful. 

But if his position in Scottish literature is undefined and spec- 
ulative, the place of Thomas the Rhymer in folk-lore and local 
legend is fully assured. " Few personages," says Sir Walter 
Scott, " are so renowned in tradition, — uniting, or supposed 
to unite, the powers of poetical composition and of vatici- 
nation, his memory, even after the lapse of five hundred years, 
is still regarded with veneration by his countrymen." 

The ballad of Thomas the Rhymer is given in Scott's Min- 
strelsy of the Scottish Border (Vol. II, p. 168). Scott's version, 
he tells us, was obtained, for the most part, " from a lady re- 
siding not far from Ercildoune." Dr. Gummere reminds us 
that the subject of this ballad, " the commerce of mortal 
with creatures of the other world, is among the oldest themes 
in story" {The Popular Ballad, pp. 215 ff.). Cf. Sir Opheo, 
(p. 103, supra), and the ballad of Tamlane ; and see Child, 
English and Scottish Ballads, I, 215 and 227. 

282. — 4. Eildon tree. " The Eildon Tree, from beneath 
the shade of which he (Rhymer) delivered his prophecies, 
now no longer exists ; but the spot is marked by a large stone, 
called Eildon Tree Stone " (Scott). — 17. Harp and carp. I.e. 
to play on the harp and to sing, or recite. (M.E. carper; to 
speak, to tell). — 19. To kiss my lips. "To kiss a fairy or 
a spirit puts a mortal in the Jurisdiction of the other world " 

284. — 66. She pu'd an apple. " The traditional com- 
mentary upon the ballad informs us, that the apple was the 
produce of the fatal Tree of Knowledge, and that the garden 


was the terrestrial paradise. The repugnance of Thomas to be 
debarred the use of falsehood, when he might find it convenient, 
has a comic effect." (Scott.) 

The Twa Corbies 

This is given in the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (II, 214). 
Scott says that it was communicated to him " by C. K. Sharpe, 
Esq., of Hodden, as written down from tradition, by a lady." 
It compares favorably, I think, with its " counterpart," The 
Three Ravens (Ritson's Ancient Songs, II, 53 ; Child's Bal- 
lads, III, 57; Motherwell's Minstrelsy, II, 270. Am. Ed.), 
although The Three Ravens has its own peculiar merits. 


The Nut-Brown Maid 
This famous poem (usually classed with the ballads) is cer- 
tainly as early as the fifteenth century, since it was published 
in 1502, in a book known as Richard xArnold's Chronicle. 
Reprinted in 1707, it attracted the attention of Prior, who 
made it a basis for his Henry and Emma, a characteristically 
eighteenth-century rendering of this old theme. In 1765 
Percy included it in his Reliques, and since his time it has 
appeared in innumerable collections. The Nut-Brown Maid 
has had many admirers. Professor Child, for instance, calls it 
" this matchless poem." The reader may be left to decide 
for himself whether this high praise is excessive ; in any case, 
there can be no question of its historical importance, and few 
will deny that it has both beauty and charm. Some, perhaps, 
would be inclined to give Scott's Brignall banks are wild and 
fair, which treats of a similar situation, an even higher place. 
The Nut- Brown Maid — the story of woman's constancy and de- 
votion triumphant over every test — evidently belongs with the 
Patient Griselda. Among the ballads it suggests compari- 

514 NOTES 

son with Child Waters. (See Gummere, The Popular Ballad, 

286. — Nut-brown Maid. " Nut-brown was the old Eng- 
lish word for brunette, and there was a saying that " a nut- 
brown girl is neat and blithe by nature " (Morley). 

296. — 330. On the splene. I.e. on the impulse of the 
moment. The spleen, as the supposed source of anger and of 
melancholy, was associated with a sudden impulse, or caprice. 

" Wordes which seid are on the splene, 

In fair language peynted ful pleasantlye." 

— Political Poems, etc. (ed. Furnival), 62. 

A Lyke-wake Dirge 

A Lyke-wake (or like-wake) is the watch, or vigil, over a 
corpse (O.E. lich, a dead body, and wake, a watch). Accord- 
ing to Brand {Pop. Antiq., 465) this Dirge was sung at funerals 
in Yorkshire " down to 1624." Scott, who gives it in his Min- 
strelsy of the Scottish Border (II, 361), says : " This is a sort of 
charm, sung by the lower ranks of Roman Catholics, in some 
parts of the North of England, while watching a dead body pre- 
vious to interment. The tune is doleful and monotonous, and 
joined to the mysterious import of the words, has a solemn 
effect." Scott then quotes the following from a Ms. of the 
Cotton Library, containing an account of Cleveland, in York- 
shire, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. " When any dieth, 
certaine women sing a song to the dead bodie, recyting the 
journey that the partye deceased must goe; and they are of 
beliefe (such is their fondnesse) that once in their lives, it is 
good to give a pair of new shoes to a poor man, for as much, as 
after this life, they are to pass barefoote through a great 
launde, full of thornes and furzen, except by the meryte of the 
almes aforesaid they have redemed the forf eyte ; for, at the 
edge of the launde, an oulde man shall meet them with the 
same shoes that were given by the partie when he was lyving ; 
and, after he hath shodde them, dismisseth them to go through 


thick and thin, without scratch or scalle." {Julius, F. VI, 


297. — 3. Fire and Sleet, etc. " The word sleet, in the cho- 
rus, seems to be corrupted from selt or salt ; a quantity of which, 
in compliance with a popular superstition, is frequently placed 
on the breast of a corpse " (Scott). (For the use of salt, candles, 
etc., about the dead, see Brand, Pop. Antiq., 440.) — 7. Whinny- 
muir. " In Yorkshire the vulgar belief (according to Aubrey) 
was that after a person's death, the soul went over whinney 
moor" (Brand). The whin is a furze or gorse. There is a 
species of broom called the moor-whin; it grows on bleak 
heaths, and has sharp spines or needles. Whinny-moor, there- 
fore, is comparable to the " great launde, full of thornes and 
furzen," described in the above quotation from the Cotton 
Ms. — 19. Brigg o' Dread. " The mythologic ideas of the 
dirge are common to various creeds. The Mahometan be- 
lieves that in advancing to the final judgment seat, he must 
traverse a bar of red-hot iron, stretched across a bottomless 
gulf. The good works of each true believer, assuming a sub- 
stantial form, will then interpose betwixt his feet and this 
' Bridge of Dread,' but the wicked, having no such protection, 
must fall headlong into the abyss. — D'Herbelot, Bibliotheque 
Orientate." (Scott.) 

The Uses of Adversity 

This is taken from a poem of about one hundred lines, in a 
Ms. of the fifteenth century preserved in the Bodleian Library, 
Oxford. (Digby Ms. 102.) It is printed under the title God's 
Appeal to Man, together with twenty-three poems from the same 
Ms. in E. E. T., Orig. Series, 124. The editor thinks that these 
twenty-four poems date from the first quarter of the fifteenth 
century, and that they are probably the work of a single author. 

"Quid Est Homo, Quia Magnificas Eum?" 
This is the second stanza of a poem of nearly 700 lines Pety 
Job, or Parce mihi Dominel This poem, which is found in a 

516 NOTES 

Ms. of the fifteenth century (Douce Ms. 322, Bodleian), 
has been published by the E. E. T., Orig. Series, 124. The 
full title or descriptive heading, of the poem is as follows : 
" Here begynneth the nyne lessons of the Dirige whych Job 
made in hys tribulacion, lying on the Donghyll, and ben de- 
clared more opynly to lewde mennes understanding by a sol- 
empne, worthy, and discrete clerke, Rychard Hampole, and ys 
cleped pety Job, and ys full profitable to stere synners to com- 
punccion." Dr. J. Kail, the editor, gives no opinion upon the 
date of the poem, but remarks that it cannot have been com- 
posed " by the monk " Richard of Hampole (i.e. by Richard 
Rolle of Hampole) " for it belongs neither to his time nor to his 
dialect." The text of the stanza here given (Quid est homo, 
etc.) is taken from Job vii : 17. 

Make We Merry in Hall and Bour 

This Carol, and the two immediately following, have been 
published by the E. E. T. in Songs, Carols, and other Miscella- 
neous Pieces from the Balliol Ms., 354, etc. (Extra Series CI), 
edited by Dyboski. The Ms. referred to in the title was the 
Commonplace-book (or, as we would say the scrap-book) of a 
certain Richard Hill. In old times, " when books were dear 
and scarce " and libraries were few, it was very usual to keep a 
common-place book of this character, a household repository, 
in which poems, songs, hymns, and other pieces were written 
down and preserved for the benefit of the family. Such a 
book often included prose also ; miscellaneous fragments, and 
notes on various matters of health or household economy, 
such as, " medical, and other receipts, puzzles, tricks," and 
" records of important events." Books of this kind were com- 
mon " from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century," indeed, 
the custom of keeping such a family volume survived " in the 
remoter parts of the country " until late in the nineteenth cen- 
tury. Hill's book, says the editor, is an interesting example 
of its class. It is placed in " the earlier part of Henry VIII's 
reign," or before 1536. This merely means that the poems 


themselves are not later than that year. The language of the 
collection is (to again quote its editor) " a modern transcription," 
but, as we should expect, the poems which Hill has chosen to 
preserve are of various dates. The practice of singing Carols 
goes back to very early times. The subject is one of great 
interest, but too extensive to be entered upon here. Among 
the numerous collections of old carols, the following may be 
mentioned. Specimens of Old Christmas Carols and Songs and 
Carols, from a Ms. of the fifteenth century, both edited by 
T. Wright and published by the Percy Society. Christmas 
Carols, Ancient and Modern, 1833, ed. by W. Sandys. See 
also the publications of the E. E. T. (especially the volume 
cited above). " The Christmas Carol" in Brand's Pop. Antiq. 
and Chambers' Book of Days, II, 754. 

The Hunt is up 

This spiri ed and famous old song is given in Chappell's 
Old Lnglish Popular Music (I, p. 86). Mr. Chappell took it 
f r the Lute Book, a Ms. music book, of a certain Jane Picker- 
ing, 1615. " The tune," Mr. Chappell tells us, " was known 
as early as 1537." The words have been ascribed with some 
probability to William Gray, a musician of Henry VIII's 
reign. We learn from a passage in Puttenham's Art of English 
Poesy (1589), that Gray gained the favor of King Henry (the 
Eighth) " for making certain ballads, whereof one chiefly was 
The Hunt is up, The Hunt is tip." This does not prove, as 
one might at first suppose, that Gray was the author of the 
song given in the present collection, as there are several other 
old songs beginning with precisely the same words, any one of 
which Puttenham might, with equal probability, have had in 
mind. (See Furness' ed. Romeo and Juliet, A. Ill, sc. v.) 
This opening, The Hunt is up, appears to have been so com- 
mon in old songs, that the tune or song played to arouse hunters 
in the morning was called a hunts-up, and the meaning was 
afterwards extended to include " any song intended to arouse 
in the morning." See Hunts-up in Cent, Diet, for various 

518 NOTES 

examples of the use of the term, and the notes in Furness on 
the passage (" Hunting thee hence with hunts-up to the day ") 
referred to above. Sir Walter Scott's song, " Waken, lords 
and ladhs gay," is a good modern imitation of the ancient 
Hunts-up. The hunting-song here given was one of the many 
secular phces appropriated for religious uses in the early six- 
teenth century by the reformers. A religious version of it ap- 
pears in the Glide andGodlie Ballatis (see n. Wedderburn, p. 510), 
and a similar paraphrase of it is given by Halliwell at the end 
of the moral play Wit and Science. See " Gude and Godlie 
Ballantrie," S. T. S., p. 174 and note on p. 283. 

Ritson (who gives this poem in his Ancient Songs) quotes 
Sir John Hawkins' statement that the poem appears by the Ms. 
(Rochford) " to have been composed about the time of Henry 
VIII." Hawkins obtained the manuscript from " a very 
judicious antiquary," who thought the verses were written 
''either by or in the person of Anne Boleyn." This, Ritscn 
adds, is " but a conjecture ; any other state-prisoner of that 
period having an equal claim." Ritson, on his own behalf, 
suggests that George, Viscount Rochford, the brother of Anne 
Boleyn, who was executed on her account, might have been the 
author. See Ritson, Ancient Songs, 120. 


William Cornish (or Cornysshe) was a Court musician in the 
reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII. An official entry shows 
that he was connected with the Court as early as 1493. In 
1509, he was made master of the children of the Chapel Royal, 
and in this capacity, chose and supervised the choristers in the 
Chapel choir. He was also concerned in the preparation and 
presentation of various pageants, and in 1520 he accompanied 
Henry VIII to the Field of the Cloth of Gold, " where he was 
intrusted with the devising of the pageants at the banquet." 
Four of his songs were printed by Wynkyn de Worde (1536) 


but not much of his music has been preserved. He died not 
later than 1524. The poem here given was one of those pub- 
lished by Wynkyn de Worde : it has been reprinted in Cham- 
bers and Sidgwick's Early English Lyrics, and elsewhere. 


Skelton was an important figure in the scholarly and literary, 
world of Henry VII's reign, and of the early part of Henry 
VIII's. He was born in Norfolk, probably at Diss, about 1460. 
He studied at Cambridge and Oxford, and received from each, 
in comparatively early years, the degree of " poet laureate." 
That he was considered a distinguished scholar by the men of 
his time is attested by the comments of Caxton and Erasmus. 
The latter calls him the " light and ornament of English 
letters." Skelton was familiar, it seems, with most of the 
Latin and Greek authors, with the French literature of the 
time, and especially with the writings of the English poets of 
the fourteenth century. Further, he was chosen tutor for the 
young prince Henry, afterward Henry VIII, a fact which in 
itself bespeaks his reputation as a scholar. In 1498 he took 
orders, and from 1507 until his death in 1529 was rector of his 
native town of Diss. 

By reason of the unevenness of his work and the short dog- 
gerel-like metre in which he cast his most important poems, 
Skelton has been somewhat underestimated. Historically he 
holds a distinguished place in the development of early Tudor 
literature. He is, moreover, one of the most versatile and orig- 
inal of English poets. Besides a morality play called Magny- 
fycence, and several interludes and comedies which have been 
lost, Skelton wrote a number of musical love poems, and several 
vigorous satires against the corruptions of Church and State. 
Among his earlier works are Philip Sparrow (cir. 1508) and the 
Bowge of Court, the rewards of Court (cir. 1509). The former is 
an elegy written in the characteristic Skeltonic verse and ad- 
dressed to Jane Scroupe, one of the pupils of the Black Nuns at 

520 NOTES 

Carow, on the death of her pet sparrow. Skelton probably 
took his subject from the example of Catullus, who in Carmen, 
3, beginning " Lugete, o Veneres Cupidinesque)" bemoans the 
death of Lesbia's sparrow. The Bowge of Court is a lengthy 
allegorical poem satirizing the uncertainties and vanities of 
court life. But Skelton's strongest and most daring satire 
belongs to his later period in the troubled times of Henry VIII. 
In Colin Clout (cir. 1519) Skelton voices the popular discontent 
with the state of England, and blames the clergy for the wrongs 
the people are forced to endure. In it appears his first criticism 
of the all-powerful Wolsey, which becomes even stronger and 
more open in his, Speke Parrot (cir. 1521) and Why Come Ye Not 
to Court (cir. 1522). In the latter, Skelton openly attacks 
Wolsey as the great festering sore upon England, as a dangerous 
favorite threatening the supremacy of the king, and as the 
cause of the people's many wrongs. 

Of the selections included here, the first two are good ex- 
amples of Skeltonic verse, the " ragged rime " as he calls it, 
which in Skelton's hands has an original power and rough vigour 
admirably sustaining the reader's interest. The playful mock- 
seriousness of Philip Sparrow, the homely directness of Colin 
Clout, and the grace and melody of the lyric to Mistress Margaret 
Hussey (from the Garland of Laurel, cir. 1520) show Skelton's 
versatility in using two and three stress rimed lines. 

A Dirge for Philip Sparrow 

A dirge (M. E. dirige) is primarily a name given to the 
Church service, or requiem, for the repose of the dead. Dirige 
(or dirge) was the first word in an antiphon chanted in that 
service : " Dirige, Domine, Deus meus, in conspectu tuo viam 
meam. , ' > (Direct, O Lord, my God, my way in thy sight.) 
Psalm v, 9, and so the initial word dirige was sometimes applied 
to the whole service, and the priests conducting a mass for the 
departed were said to " sing a dirge." This poem on the death 
of Jane Scroupe's pet sparrow is not merely a dirge in our com- 


mon sense, not merely, that is, a lament, or elegy, like Collins' 
Dirge in Cymbeline; it expresses, indeed, the personal grief of 
the schoolgirl at Carow over the loss of her favorite, but it 
also brings before us the singing of a dirge in the ecclesiastical 
sense, " for that sweet soul's sake." So, the solemn words of 
the Church's office for the departed are heard at intervals 
throughout the poem, and the echoes of distant chants mingle 
with little Jane Scroupe's childish distress. Skelton's contem- 
porary, Alexander Barclay, who objected to these references to 
a solemn service in a poem of light and trivial character, refers 
contemptuously to the Dirge for Philip Sparrow in his Ship 
of Fools. The passages from the Latin ritual interspersed 
throughout the poem correspond in general to the order of the 
Vespers of the Office for the dead. Thus, Placebo (literally 
I will please) is the initial word of the opening antiphon : 
Placebo Domino in regione vivorum (I will walk before the Lord 
in the land of the living) Vulgate, Ps. cxiv : 9, or Ps. cxvi : 9, in 
the English Bible. The placebo and the dirge are often spoken 
of together, and the words are used in a similar way. Thus 
Langland is said to have sung diriges and placebos for his living. 

Dilexi (literally, I am delighted), 1. 3, is the first word of the 
Psalm which follows the placebo (Ps. cxiv, Vulgate) Dilexi, 
quoniam exaudiet Dominus vocem orationis meae (I am well 
pleased that the Lord hath heard the voice of my prayer) ; 
and Ad dominum (1. 66) is the opening of the second antiphon 
Ad Dominum, cum tribularer clamavi (When I was in trouble I 
called upon the Lord) Ps. cxix. Vulgate. 

Dyce remarks, that " Skelton is not the only writer that 
has taken liberties with the Romish service-book." After re- 
ferring to Chaucer's Court of Love, and other pieces, he cites the 
following, " from rare tract entitled A Commemoration or Dirige 
of Boner, etc., 1569 : 

'"Placebo, Bo, Bo, Bo, Bo, Bo, 

De profundis clamavi, how is this matter come to pass, 
Laevavi oculos meos, from a darke depe place.' " 

— Skelton's Poetical Works, II, p. 121 (Dyce's ed.). 

522 NOTES 

307. — 8. Carow. A nunnery near Norwich, dedicated to 
St. Mary and St. John. It consisted of a prioress and nine Bene- 
dictine nuns, " the nunnes blake " of the poem. (Dyce.) 
— 12. Set in our bead roules. I.e. set in the rolls, or lists, of 
persons (here sparrows) to be prayed for. A bead means pri- 
marily a prayer (M. E. bede = a prayer, Old English biddan = 
to ask, to pray), hence a bead-roll was the name given to " the 
list of the persons and objects for which prayers were said, 
read out by the preacher before the sermon." The meaning 
now commonly attached to the word bead, grew out of the prac- 
tice of using the balls strung on a chaplet or rosary to keep 
count of the number of prayers repeated. Bead was thus, first, 
the prayer, and second, the object used in praying, by means of 
which the prayers were counted. See Cent. Diet, and N. E. D. 
and Cf. note 194, 159. 

Colin Clout 

Stopford Brooke in his English Literature takes Colin to 
mean a countryman or shepherd, and Clout a mechanic. But 
the combination would be virtually meaningless. Clout may 
mean " ragged " or " patched " (from Old English clut), which 
would make Colin Clout mean " the ragged rustic, shepherd, or 
farmer." Spenser, in the Epistle prefaced to his Eclogues, 
says that he calls his shepherd Colin Clout because of his 
simple and unaffected manner of speech, and because of the 
" baseness of the name." The point is that Skelton uses a 
name suggestive of a man of the lower classes. Cf. Piers the 
Ploughman, and the French Jacques Bonhomme. 

To Mistress Margaret Hussey 

311. — 22. Isaphil. Hypsiphyle. See note 189,245. — 23. 
Coliander. Coriander, a plant of the Parsley family. — 24. 
Sweet Pomander. A mixture of perfumes placed in a ball, or 
round perforated box, and carried in the pocket, or on a chain 
around the neck. — 25. Cassander. The plant Cassandra of 
the Heath family. 




The importance of the work of Wyatt and Surrey and the 
significance of their place in English literature are so well under- 
stood that little need here be said upon either subject. In the 
period of the early Renaissance, the period of preparation and 
of promise preceding the age of Shakespeare, they are literary 
pioneers introducing a new art, drawing upon new sources of 
inspiration, and in certain respects achieving higher standards 
in their work than English poetry had known before. The 
publication of the miscellany in which their poems first appeared 
is generally looked upon as marking definitely the beginning of 
Elizabethan literature. It must be remembered, however, that 
though TotteVs Miscellany was not printed until 1557, the lyrics 
of Wyatt and Surrey were written during the reign of Henry 
VIII (1509-1547). Sir Thomas Wyatt was born in 1503, and 
died in 1542. Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, born probably 
in 1517, was beheaded, on a charge of treason, by Henry VIII 
in the last year of his reign. The lives of these " Courtly 
Makers " were thus practically coextensive with that monarch's 
sovereignty ; and their interests and activities are to be identi- 
fied with Henry VIII rather than with Elizabeth ; with the be- 
ginnings of Renaissance literature in England rather than with 
its culmination. 

Both poets were noblemen of high rank, taking an active and 
important part in the affairs of the realm. With them culture 
was necessarily but one among many interests, and they wrote 
poetry as accomplished amateurs, rather than as professional men 


524 NOTES 

of letters. Wyatt was educated at Cambridge and studied prob- 
ably also at Oxford. Surrey was proficient in all the feats and 
graces of chivalry, and enjoyed the privilege of studying abroad. 
Indeed, both men were in touch with the most advanced learn- 
ing of the Continent. Wyatt was employed by the king on 
several diplomatic missions, to France, Spain, Italy, and 
Flanders. From Italy he drew, if not the inspiration, at least 
the form and many of the ideas, of his poems. His chief con- 
tribution to the new English poetry was perhaps the writing of 
sonnets, in which he followed Petrarch, although modifying 
somewhat the strict Petrarchian form. Surrey's notable 
achievement was the writing of successful blank-verse in his 
translation of the Mneid. To Surrey the honor thus belongs 
of introducing into English poetry the metre of Marlowe's 
Hero and Leander, of Shakespeare's King Lear, of Milton's 
Paradise Lost, and Wordsworth's Excursion. Both Wyatt and 
Surrey, moreover, did much to develop in English poetry 
a smoother versification, a more harmonious, orderly, and 
condensed style, and to introduce that subjective interest 
which becomes one of the most striking features of modern 

The selections here printed from the works of the two poets 
suggest their respective merits. The first is a typical example 
of the sonnet form as practised by Wyatt. The poem Of the 
Courtier's Life, is a satire on the vexations and uncertainties 
of court life, which though modelled upon the classical satirists, 
by its genuine note of personal feeling brings us close to the 
manly character of its author. Surrey's poems are more pol- 
ished than Wyatt's, but they are also more conventional in 
sentiment, and lack the vigor and directness of those written 
by the elder and less finished poet. 

And wilt thou leave me Thus? 

315. — 4. Grief and grame. Grief, misery. Old English 
grama, anger. 


Or the Courtier's Life 

316. — 1. John Poins, who died in 1558, was one of Wy- 
att's most intimate friends. 

317. — 27. Sely lambs. Happy, lucky, fortunate, innocent. 
See " silly," Cent. Diet. 

318. — 60. But I am here in Kent and Christendom. I.e. 
In his house at Allington, Kent, where he was born, and to 
which he retired about 1541, after the downfall of the minister, 
Cromwell, Wyatt's supporter. 

The Frailty of Beauty 

This poem is ascribed in the Harrington Ms. to Lord Vaux. 

319. — 8. Geason. "Once gotten, not geason," i.e. once 
obtained, it is nothing extraordinary, or not worth struggling 
for. Geason = extraordinary, amazing. See Cent. Diet. 

How no Age is content with his own Estate 
321. — 16. Dented chews. I.e. my jaws furrowed, or worn, 
by the emaciation of extreme age. Chews, chewes, or chaws, 
are forms of jaw. Cf. " I wyll put an hooke in thy chawes." 
Ezek. xxix. 4, trans. 1551. See N. E. D. and "jaw" in Skeat's 
Etymol. Diet. 


Thomas, second Baron Vaux of Harrowden, eldest son of Sir 
Nicholas, the first Baron Vaux, was born in 15 10, and succeeded 
to the barony on the death of his father in 1523. He was 
made a Knight of the Bath, and for a time was Captain of the 
Isle of Jersey, but on the whole was less prominent than his 
father in public and military affairs. He belongs to the little 
group at the Courts of Henry VIII, and Edward VI, who in- 
troduced an Italian flavor into English poetry and prepared 
the way for the triumphs of the Elizabethan lyric. How much 
Vaux may have written is uncertain, his slender reputation rests 
on the few lyrics known to be his which time has spared. Two 
of his poems were included in the collection known as TotteVs 

526 • NOTES 

Miscellany (1537), and thirteen poems appear under his name 
in another anthology, The Paradise of Dainty Devices (1578). 
Lord Vaux died in 1556. Puttenham described him as " a 
noble gentleman who much delighted in vulgar making " (i.e. 
English poetry), but " otherwise a man of no great learning." 
Shakespeare put part of Vaux's poem The Aged Lover Re- 
nounceth Love, which was very popular towards the end of the 
sixteenth century, into the mouth of the First Gravedigger 
in Hamlet (Act, V, sc. i). See D. N. B. 


Thomas Tusser was born about 1524 at Rivenhall, near 
Witham in Essex. He was chorister at the collegiate chapel of 
the castle of Wallingford (or Wallingford College), Berkshire, 
where he is said to have been " ill-treated, ill-clothed, and ill- 
fed." He later became a chorister in St. Paul's Cathedral, and 
from there went to Eton where he studied under Nicholas 
Udall. After leaving Eton, he entered Cambridge, but being 
compelled by sickness to leave the University, he attached him- 
self to the court, in the service of Lord Paget, as a musician. 
After ten years of this service, he married and settled down as 
a farmer near Brantham in Suffolk. Here he wrote his Hundred 
Points of Good Husbandry (1557). Tusser's life was an unsettled 
one. He left Brantham and tried one place after another, until 
driven out from London by the plague (1573-1574), he returned 
to Cambridge. He left Cambridge, however, for London, 
where he died in 1580, and was buried in the Church of St. 
Mildred in The Poultry. 

Fuller speaks of Tusser as "this stone of Sisyphus" who 
" could gather no moss," and says that " none was better at 
the theory or worse at the practice of husbandry." 


Richard Edwards was born in Somersetshire about 1523. 
He was educated at Oxford, and on leaving the University he 
was entered as a student at Lincoln's Inn. He wrote several 


plays (at one of which Queen Elizabeth " laughed heartily — 
and gave the author great thanks for his pains "), but only one 
of his dramas, a comedy on Damon and Pitheas, is extant. 
Many of his poems were published in The Paradise of Dainty 
Devices, 1578. On the whole Edwards seems to have been a 
successful and useful man. He had some substantial tokens of 
Court favor, and his verses were praised by his contemporaries. 
He died in 1566. 


George Turberville, who belonged to " a right ancient and 
gentile family " of Dorsetshire, was born about 1540 and died 
about 1610. Turberville appears to have been a man of learn- 
ing, something of a traveller, and a personage of no little im- 
portance in the literary life of the early Elizabethan period. 
He published a book on Russia, on his return from an embassy 
to Ivan the. Terrible ; a book of Epitaphs, Epigrams, Songs, and 
Sonnets; a work on Falconry ; a translation of certain poems of 
Ovid, and sundry other works. He was apparently an intimate 
friend of Gascoigne, and like him he was looked back to as " the 
worthy poet of a rude period," by his poetical contempo- 


While he failed to reach the highest altitude of poetry, 
which his contemporary Sackville entered in his contribution 
to the Mirror for Magistrates, Gascoigne was a man of versatile 
talents and restless energy, whose strong personality helped to 
shape the literature of his own and succeeding generations. 
When we read the story of his stormy and wayward life, and 
see how a passion of repentance follows the passion of youthful 
and adventurous spirit, we feel that there was something very 
human and vital in this man, which wins both our sympathy 
and our interest. Gascoigne was not of the class that Byron 
despised — " an author that is all author ; " his favorite motto 
was Tarn Marti quam Mer curio (as much Mars as Mercury) 

528 NOTES 

and he was a soldier as well as a poet and a scholar. He lived 
in an age when men had left the old ways in literature, and 
when they were eagerly looking for new paths. In this age of 
experiment and uncertainty, Gascoigne was a daring pioneer, 
so that an author of the following generation could write : 
" Master Gascoigne is not to be abridged of his deserved esteem, 
who first beat the path to that perfection which our best poets, 
aspired to since his departure." 

George Gascoigne was born about 1 530-1 536. The eldest 
son of Sir John Gascoigne, of Cardington, Bedfordshire, the 
poet was a man of good birth and excellent social position. 
He studied at Cambridge, and afterward at Gray's Inn, but 
his temperament was lawless and his habits extravagant, and 
his time was by no means wholly given to books. He went to 
Holland to take part in the struggle against Spain, and served 
under William of Orange with bravery and some distinction. 
After his return to England, 1574, he had an important share 
in devising those famous revels at Kennilworth with which 
Leicester welcomed Queen Elizabeth in 1575. Gascoigne 
had written both poetry and plays before this, but after his 
return from Holland he published a collection of his poems 
" corrected, perfected, and augmented by the author," under 
the title, The Posies of George Gascoigne, Esquire. This was 
followed by The Steele Glas and The Complaynte of Phylomene, 
which were published together in 1576. Gascoigne's reputa- 
tion was growing, and he had good prospects of Court favor, 
but his health was already failing, and he died in 1577. 

As a poet Gascoigne was soon eclipsed by the great writers 
who immediately followed him. He seems to have been held 
in slight esteem by his successors, and in recent times he has 
been severely judged. It is easy to find better men and better 
poets than Gascoigne, yet he is not " to be abridged of his 
deserved esteem." As a man he seems to have had a vein of 
true humility with all his dash and daring, and as a poet his 
works, if they lack grace and beauty, have some solid and 
enduring merits. 


The Steel Glass 

332. — 1. And thus I sing. The Steel Glass contains over 
eleven hundred lines, so that the portion here given is only 
about one-third of the entire poem. The selection, which 
begins at 1. 149, includes the most striking and representative 
parts of the poem, and a brief account of the introductory 
lines, which are here omitted, will make the general plan more 
clear. The poet begins with an invocation to the nightingale, 
or Philomene, who, like a true satirist, sings, in spite of danger 
or despite, and begs her help in telling a tale which may 
content the learned. We are then told, in an allegorical pas- 
sage, that the speaker is Satira, or Satire, the daughter of 
Plain-Dealing and Simplicity, and the twin sister of Poesis, 
or Poetry. Satira is injured by Vain-Delight (a friend of 
Flattery and Deceit) who cuts her tongue that she may not 
betray his evil deeds. Yet, — as the gods allowed the nightin- 
gale to sing " a pleasant note sometimes," " though that her 
tongue were cut," — so Satira 

" may sometimes Reprover's deeds reprove, 
And sing a verse to make them see themselves." 

"Thus," Satira continues (in this manner, and with this ob- 
ject) " thus I sing." — 10. My lord, i.e. Arthur, Lord Grey 
of Wilton, to whom The Steel Glass was dedicated. In 1580, 
he was appointed Lord-Deputy to Ireland, and after having 
been the friend and patron of Gascoigne, Grey took another 
poet — the young Edmund Spenser — into his service as his 
secretary. — 12. A plain song. The plain song was a simple, 
austere style of vocal music, used in the Christian Church from 
very early times. It bore some resemblance to a recitative 
in a modern oratorio, or to a simple chant sung in unison. 
Hence, a plain song came to mean a simple air, free from elabo- 
ration or ornament, which might be made the basis for varia- 
tions. (See "Plain-song," Schmidt, Shakespeare Lexicon.) To 
warble, on the other hand, meant to sing with trills, or melodious 

530 NOTES 

333- — J 8. Surcuydry. (M.E. Surquiderie from O.F. sur- 
quiderie = presumption). Pride, arrogance, presumption. 

" How often falleth al th' effect contraire 
Of surquidrye and foul presumpcioun." 

— Chaucer, Troilus, I, 212. 

— 29. To see himself. Every one wishes to have a glass that 
will flatter. In such a glass he sees himself, — and yet he 
does not see himself as he really is. The gift of seeing " our- 
sel's as others see us " is not what we want. — 30. A glass of 
common glass, i.e. a, glass, " colored to destroy its transpar- 
ency and give it a reflective power." Gascoigne's satire is 
based, as its title suggests, on the contrast between the old- 
fashioned " glasses," or " mirrors " (whether these were made 
of common glass, of the beryl, with its foil, or backing, " of 
lovely brown," or simply of polished steel) and the new-fash- 
ioned glasses, backed, as our modern mirrors are, with a prepa- 
ration containing quicksilver. The Venetians had reached a 
high degree of excellence in the manufacture of their new- 
fashioned mirrors, so that the Venetian glasses were famous 
throughout Europe, and greatly in demand. In 1564 the 
mirror-makers of Venice had formed themselves into a cor- 
poration ; and in Elizabeth's reign the Venetian mirrors were a 
novelty to the English, and highly prized. Gascoigne, however, 
disdains these new-fangled importations, and contrasts the 
new mirror (the crystal glass, 1. 40), " which shows the thing 
much better than it is," with the oldtime glass of burnished 
steel, which " trusty was and true," and which showed things 
as they really were. This faithful, oldtime Steel-glass — this 
glass of truth — is the mirror in which Gascoigne seeks to 
reflect his time. "The poet," says Dr. Schelling, " holds up 
his mirror of burnished steel before the Commonwealth, re- 
flecting therein Kings, gentlemen, soldiers, and peasants, 
widening these various classes to include all sorts and condi- 
tions of men, from the weakling prince and the corrupt judge 
to the dishonest tradesman and degraded villein of the soil." 


{The Life and Writings of George Gascoigne, p. 74. Pub. U. of 

334. — 53. Lammas day. I.e. x\ugust 18, the festival of the 
wheat harvest in England, when loaves of bread were offered 
in the churches, as the first-fruits of the harvest. Hence the 
name lammas, which means a loaf-mass, or bread-feast (Old 
English hlafmcesse ; hlaf = loaf, masse = mass). See " Gule of 
August" in Brand's Pop. Antiq., p. 189; and Chambers' 
Book of Days, II, 154. — 55. Tyburn Cross. " In allusion to 
the dying speeches often made at the gallows" (Morley). 
Tyburn, formerly a village in the vicinity of London, is said 
to have been used as a place for the execution of criminals as 
early as the twelfth century. — 71. A Glassmaker indeed. 
Gascoigne goes on to explain, in a passage omitted here, that 
the " glassmaker " referred to was Lucilius, i.e. the Latin poet 
Caius Lucilius (about 180 B.c-103 B.C.), who held up his 
satiric mirror to the life of his age. 

335. — 89. Who taught King Croesus, etc. The familiar 
story of the interview between King Crcesus, King of Lydia, 
and Solon, the Athenian lawgiver, is told in Herodotus, Bk. I 
Chaps. XXX-XXXII. Solon, it will be remembered, finally 
told the King to call no man truly happy until death had ended 
a prosperous life. — 91. Lycurgus. "The famous laws of 
Lycurgus were designed, says Plutarch, to secure within 
Sparta the conquest of luxury and to exterminate the love of 
riches" (Morley). 

338. — 211. To bid my beads. In general, to say my prayers. 
Who, the poet asks, shall I pray for first? Who shall 
stand first in my bead-roll? Cf. n. 307, 12. — 215. Good 
Peerce. An obvious reference to the peasant hero of Lang- 
land's vision. It is interesting to note that these poet-reform- 
ers, Langland, Skelton, and Gascoigne, all turn to the common 
people, the labourers, when they wish to find a spokesman fit 
to lead, or to bear witness against the evils of the time. (Cf. 
Colin Clout, p. 309, supra, and note). Dr. Schelling says: 
"Apart from the pervading fervor and eloquence of his general 

532 NOTES 

invective and the candor with which he displays the canker of 
false-seeming that taints all grades of society, nothing could 
be finer than the courage and sincerity with which the courtly 
poet stretches forth the hand of fellowship to the plowman." 

339. — 233. By earing up the baulks. I.e. by ploughing up 
the uncultivated strip of land which marked the boundary 
between two estates. For this and other meanings of " baulk," 
see Cent. Diet. 

340. — 275. Firmenty. " From Latin frumentum, corn. As 
a food this is whole wheat, free from husk, boiled in milk, 
sweetened and flavoured. Here it means grain merely boiled 
or steeped, and not made into good malt by giving time and 
care to produce good germination, and the consequent develop- 
ment of its sugar" (Morley). — 278. Golden thumb An 
allusion to the proverb, "An honest miller has a thumb of 
gold." (Cf. n. 206, 563.) Conflicting explanations have 
been given of this saying ; but, as we particularly gather from 
various other sources that millers had but an indifferent repu- 
tation for honesty, it clearly implies that in taking his toll out 
of the meal he ground, the average miller managed to get more 
than his due. — 279. Barm bear price of wheat. Barm, the 
scum or froth which rises to the surface of beer or other malt 
liquors when fermenting, was used as leaven, or yeast, in 
bread-making. The sense here appears to be : when bakers 
no longer make up for the poor quality, or small quantity, of 
their flour by the lavish use of barm. In any case, the line 
refers to some fraudulent device on the part of the bakers, 
just as the two lines immediately following relate to frauds 
practised by brewers and butchers. — 281. When butchers 
blow not, etc. Butchers used various devices to make stale 
meat appear fresh, blowing it up, stretching it, or washing it 
with fresh blood. " I pray you, good man Kil-Calfe, what 
havocke play you with puffing up of meate, and blowing with 
your pricker as you flea it : — Oh Butcher, a long lent be your 
punishment, for you make no conscience in deceiving the poor." 
(Greene, A Quippe for an Upstart Courtier, Grosart's ed., XI, 


273. Stubbes, Anatomy of Abuses, p. 26 in New Shaks. Soc. 
Pub. See also N.E.D., "blow," 22, and Thornbury's Shake- 
speare's England, I, 60.) — 285. Make more bones. I.e. make 
more scruples about swearing and lying. Cf. the expressions 
" without more bones," = without more scruples; "to make 
more bones " = to raise more objections. 

341. — 292. By giving day. " Drapers were said to take 
advantage of failure of light, and to keep their shops purposely 
dark, that they might more readily deceive customers in 
selling their fabrics. This was the charge made against them 
in Gower's Vox Clamantis, etc. (Bk. V, 11. 779-780)" (Morley). 
See also Thornbury's Shakespeare's England, I, 56. — 293. 
Parchmentiers, etc. I.e. when makers of trimmings (Fr. 
passementier = lace-maker, passementerie = lace- work) use no 
silk of an inferior quality. Ferret-silk is floss silk, i.e. the 
rough silk broken off in the winding, and used chiefly in the 
manufacture of common silk fabrics. Cf. Florio (1598) : 
" Fioretti — a kind of coarse silk called foret or ferret silke." 
(See N.E.D, "ferret.") — 297. When takers, etc. This may 
mean, " when purveyors (i.e. those who took or exacted 
supplies or necessaries for the sovereign), shall neither take 
bribes nor assume an arrogant or boastful manner." As, how- 
ever, the word taker had various meanings in Gascoigne's 
time, and as the phrase use no brags admits of more than 
one interpretation, the line is ambiguous. — 299. — When 
searchers, etc. According to Nares, a Searcher is a technical 
name for a collector of customs, or a revenue officer. The 
sense here appears to be : when customs-officers accept no 
bribes to pass over dutiable articles in a ship, and take noth- 
ing improperly in connection with anything they see. Nares 
cites the following : " Searchers, an old term for a farmer of 
the Customs. Fermier de ferme publique. A searcher, or 
customer; the King's or Queen's farmer of Commonwealth's 
revenues. (Nomenclature, 1585)." — 312. Precious coles, as 
here used, is a rare word of obscure origin. Cole means treach- 
ery, deceit, falsehood. The sense is : when roisterers do not 

534 NOTES 

assume a bearing above their condition, and no longer give a 
colour or appearance of truth to their deception by swearing 
outrageous falsehoods. Precious is here used in an ironical 
sense, as one would say, " He is a precious rogue." A cole- 
prophet is a false prophet ; one who pretends to tell the future 
by magic, or trickery. — 313. Fencers' fees, etc. I.e. when 
fencers' charges (which were then often thought extortionate) 
are no larger than the rewards we give our monkeys, viz. a 
crust of bread, and a cuff, or blow. In Silver's The Paradox of 
Defence (1599), we read of an Italian fencing-master, named 
Rocco, who had a splendid fencing-school in London, most 
luxuriously fitted up, which he called his " colledge." Here 
he " taughte none commonly under twentie, fortie, fifty or an 
hundred pounds." From Gosson's School of Abuse, and else- 
where, we learn that the fencing-schools had a bad reputation. 
A bob may mean, a light blow, cuff, or rap, or else a scoff or 
taunt. (See N.E.D., "bob," sb. 3.) 


Thomas Sackville, the greatest poet of the early half of 
Elizabeth's reign, was born in Buckhurst, Surrey, in 1536. His 
father, Sir Richard Sackville, while he devoted himself with 
success to public affairs, had a respect for scholarship, and 
regretted that as a boy he had been driven from all love of 
learning by the fear of a beating. But learning, the loss of 
which the father regretted, was gained in good measure by 
the son. Thomas Sackville is said to have studied both at 
Oxford and Cambridge, and although it is asserted that the 
records fail to confirm this, it is evident that in some way he 
was carefully educated. Bacon addresses him in later life 
as " one that was excellently bred in all learning," and adds 
that this learning " shone out " in all his " speech and beha- 
viour." After completing his general training (at Cambridge, 
or elsewhere) Sackville entered upon the study of the law at the 
Inner Temple. Here, with Norton, a fellow-student, he wrote 
Gorboduc, the first regular English tragedy, which was pro- 


aced at a Christmas entertainment at the Temple in 1561. 
This work marks an important advance in the progress of the 
English drama, but Sackville's reputation as a poet rests 
chiefly upon his contributions to a huge poetical enterprise by 
various authors, known as The Mirror for Magistrates. This 
work, modelled on Lydgate's Fall of the Princes, was designed 
to be a mirror in which magistrates {i.e. those great, or in 
authority) could see by the example of others how the wicked- 
ness and ambition of those in high places had been punished 
in the past. This undertaking did not originate with Sack- 
ville {Camb. Eng. Lit., Chap. IX), but his two contributions 
to it — The In&uctioyi and The Complaint of Henry, Duke 
of Buckingham — are poetically, the really memorable part 
of the work. These contributions first appeared in an edition 
of the Mirror for Magistrates, which was published in 1563. 
Sackville might have done even greater things in literature ; but 
at the outset of his career, while he was yet under thirty, he 
forsook poetry for politics. His diplomatic career belongs to 
history. He was knighted and made Lord Buckhurst in 1567 ; 
he was employed on various embassies and State trials. He 
was created Earl of Dorset by James I, and he became Chan- 
cellor of the University of Oxford (1591) and Lord High 
Treasurer of England (1599). He died in 1608, while sitting 
at the Council table. 

As a poet, Sackville was alike the successor of Lydgate and 
his masters, and the predecessor of the author of the Faerie 
Queene. Spenser himself paid a graceful tribute to his fore- 
runner ; and in later days Sir Egerton Bridges, writing of Sack- 
ville as a poet, observed quaintly : " It is grievous to think that 
this splendid genius, who lived to a great age and was created 
Earl of Dorset by James I, afterwards sunk the poet in the 
coarse character of the statesman." 

The Induction to the Mirror for Magistrates 

343. — 29. Scorpio is the eighth and Sagittarius the ninth 

sign of the Zodiac. Scorpio is here represented as flying before 

536 NOTES 

the dart of the Archer, Sagittarius, i.e. the sun is entering the 
sign of Sagittarius, or in other words, it is about the middle of 
November. The elaborate astronomical details with which the 
poem opens (first seven stanzas) are intended to heighten the 
reader's feeling that " most fel winter " is at hand. Phaeton, 
or the Sun, is now nearing the end of his annual race ; the days 
are growing shorter, and Cynthea, the Moon, is beginning to 
supply the Sun's place with her reflected light, and the winter 
constellations have already taken their places in the heavens. 
It is not unlikely that in old days, when the belief in Astrology 
was widespread, there may have been a greater general inter- 
est in the position of the heavenly bodies than there is to-day ; 
for astrology, unlike astronomy, joined the stars to human 
destiny, and gave men a personal interest in the heavens. 
However this may be, there are many astronomical references 
in the works of the older writers, which a modern poet would 
hesitate to introduce, and which a modern reader is likely to 
find obscure. Cf. the allusions to Capricorn and Aquarius 
(tenth and eleventh signs of the Zodiac) in Lyndsay's Dream 
(p. 270), and the passage in Prologue to Canterbury Tales (Hath 
in the Ram), 190, 8, and note. 

344. — 55. To die the death, i.e. to die in a predestined, or 
inevitable manner. Cf. Gen. II. 17, " for even ye same day thou 
eatest of it thou shalt dye ye dethe.' (1551), and Shake- 
speare, M.N.D., I, 1. 

" Either to die the death, or to abjure 
Forever the society of men." 

344. — 62. Reduced, i.e. brought back (Lat. re-ducere). Cf. 
Shakespeare, Rich. Ill, V. v, 36 : 

" Abate the edge of traitors, gracious Lord, 
That would reduce these bloody days again." 

345. — 80. Wealked. Withered, shrivelled (M.E. welken, 
fade, vanish, wither). Cf. Chaucer, Pardoner's Tale, supra, 1. 
88, " Full pale and welked is my face." Or possibly it is the early 
modern English form of whelked (i.e. ridged, or furrowed, like 


the shell of a whelk), and in this case, wealked means lined, with 
the traces of her tears. — 82. Reposed, i.e. all her rest (as 
seemed, or suited, her state the best) was rested, or stayed 
{reposed), in woe and plaint. That is to say, she only found 
rest in unrest. 

346. — 123. All to-dashed. The to here is an intensive pre- 
fix of Old English origin (see Cent. Diet. " to " 2), and must not 
be confused with the sign of the infinitive. It occurs in such 
verbs as tobeat, toburst, tofall, etc. The word all (utterly, 
wholly) was used to give an added intensity, as in the expres- 
sions all to split, all to broken (see Cent. Diet., "all," adv.). To- 
dashed, here, may mean either that she utterly shattered, or 
frantically beat herself, for woe. Cf. " For er he departed 
his shielde was all to daisht that the thridde part he left not 
hool," etc. (" Merlin," E. E. T., Ill, 443 ) ; and " And a certain 
woman cast a piece of millstone upon Abimelech's head, and 
all to-break his skull." {Judges, ix : 53 ; Milton's Comus, 1. 380; 
and Abbott's Shakespearian Grammar, §§28 and 436). — 135 
Drere (drear) grief, gloom. Cf. Spenser : — 

" The hoarse night-raven, trump of dolefull drere." 
— 139. Forsunk means entirely, utterly, wholly sunk. The 
prefix is here used intensively, as in forlorn, forspent. 

347. — 141. Of a stike. I have not been able to find 
another passage in which the word stike is used, and its deriva- 
tion and meaning are uncertain. Nares, in his Glossary, 
connects it with the Greek stikos, a row, and hence a line, or 
verse, i.e. words set in a row, — and supposes stike in this 
passage to mean a stanza. According to this view, the line 
would mean : " I had no sooner spoken for (of) a stanza." 
This explanation has been adopted by several editors, but it is 
unconvincing and an offence to poetry. The following ex- 
planation, the first of the two suggested by Professor Morley, 
is far more probable. Morley suggests that stike may mean 
" a sigh or stifled groan." He says : " The last line had been, 
' That at thy sight I can but sigh and weep.' Steigh is still 
used in Scotland, as defined by Jamison, as ' a stifled groan 

538 NOTES 

as from one in distress or bearing a heavy load,' stech and stegh 
meaning to puff and groan." {Shorter English Poems, p. 172.) 

348. — 185. A desert wood. Sackville's account of his 
visit to the shades is not wanting in originality, although he 
did not hesitate to use the work of his great predecessors Vergil 
and Dante. Vergil is led by the Sibyl, Dante by Vergil, and 
Sackville by Sorrow. In the Latin, Italian, and English poets, 
the desert wood forms part of the conception. Vergil imagined 
a huge forest covering the middle regions between our upper 
world and the Shades {Mn., VI, 131), and he pictured the 
chasm which led to the lower world as surrounded by a dark 
thicket {Mn., VI, 237); while Dante at the beginning of his 
poem loses himself in a dark wood {una selva oscura) of error, 
like the Red Cross Knight in the first Canto of Spenser's 
Faerie Queene. — 204. An hideous hole, etc. For all this 
passage, cf. Vergil, Mn., VI, 236 et seq. 

349. — 219. Remorse of Conscience. Note the close rela- 
tion which these allegorical shapes {Remorse of Conscience, 
Dread, Revenge, Misery, Care, Sleep, Old Age, Malady, Famine, 
War, Deadly Debate), bear to the theme of the entire poem. 
The Mirror for Magistrates was designed to show, by historical 
examples, the perils and misfortunes that attend worldly emi- 
nence, and these terrible apparitions, strongly imagined and 
graphically described, are, for the most part, personifications 
of the ills which attend greatness. Cf. the similar figures in 
Spenser's Faerie Queene, Bk. II, Canto VI, st. 22, etc. 

351. — 271. Brushing up the breres. The expression 
brushing up is variously used; thus in some parts of England 
it is applied to a particular method of cutting and training 
hedges, and " to brush up " also means " to mow nettles, 
thistles, and rough grass " (Wright, Eng. Dia. Diet.). The pic- 
ture here suggested is that of Care, continually busy upon his 
poor task of cutting, or trimming, the roughest and most 
thankless growths. His hands are tawed (tanned, hardened) 
the horny, battered hands of the labourer. Such was the 
labour of the furze-cutter (whom Sackville may have had in 


mind), who cut the prickly growth on the wild heaths or wastes, 
and bound it in fagots. Readers of Hardy's Return of the 
Native, will recall the description of the heath and the furze- 
cutters in its opening chapters. — 281. Cousin of Death. 
Homer calls sleep the brother of death {Iliad, 14, 231), and the 
idea has been repeated by Chapman, B. Griffin, Shelley, and 
countless others. Cousin is probably here used in the more 
general sense of kinsman. — 294. Irus. The huge beggar in 
Homer's Iliad who kept watch over Penelope. Morley points 
out that Ovid uses Crcesus and Irus as types of wealth and 
poverty. — 299. The Sisters. The three Fates, — the " fa- 
tal Sisters," — Atropos, Clotho, and Lachesis. 

355. — 407. Great Macedo. I.e. Alexander the Great of 
Macedon. The " fight " referred to was the battle of Arbela, 
B.C. 331. — 413. Consul Paulus. I.e. Lucius iEmilius Paulus, 
defeated and killed at the battle of Cannae, 216 B.C. — 414- 
415. Trasimene : Treby field. Two brilliant victories of 
Hannibal over the Romans. Trebia (Treby field) was 218 
B.C., and Lake Trasimenus (Trasimene) 217 B.C. — 426. 
The queen, etc. I.e. Tomyris, a Scythian, the Queen of the 
Massagetae. According to Herodotus, Tomyris swore by the 
sun that unless Cyrus — who was invading her territories — would 
consent to her demands she would give him his fill of blood. 
Having rejected her terms, Cyrus was defeated and killed, and 
Tomyris " directed his head to be thrown into a vessel filled 
with human blood, exclaiming that she would give him his fill 
of blood, as she had vowed" (Her. I, CCXII-CCXIV). 
Sackville tells the story in part in " The Complaint of Henry, 
Duke of Buckingham" which he contributed to The Mirror 
for Magistrates: — 

" His head, dismember'd from his mangled corpse, 
Herself she cast into a vessel fraught 
With clottered blood of them that felt her force, 
And with these words a just reward she taught : 
' Drink now thy fill of thy desired draught.' " 

(Stanza 14.) 

540 NOTES 

356. — 432. Thebes I saw. " Reference is to the story in 
the ' Thebaid ' of Statius, one of the most popular Latin books 
in and before Sackville's time" (Morley). — 456. The 
flames upspring, etc. Sackville follows the account of the 
sack of Troy in Vergil, Mn. II, (see e.g. 11. 202 et seq. and 403 et 

357. — 471. In the shield. I.e. pictured in the targe, or 
shield, that hung by the side of War, and on which all these 
horrors were Cc depainted " (supra, 11. 399-400). 

359. — 533. Henry, Duke of Buckingham. I.e. Henry 
Stafford, second Duke of Buckingham, b. about 1440. He 
supported Richard III in his usurpation of the crown, and was 
made Lord High Constable of England. Having taken part 
in a plot to restore the house of Lancaster, he was executed 
in 1483. His Complaint (which Sackville contributed to the 
Mirror for Magistrates, see note 355, 426, supra) immediately 
follows the Induction. This is the Buckingham of Shakespeare's 
Richard III, and of the famous line which Colley Cibber in- 
serted in that play : — 

" Off with his head, so much for Buckingham." 
— 534. Pilled. Means primarily bald (cf. pilde, 1. 2>2>2>j 
supra), stripped of hair (O.F. piller, F. peler), and hence second- 
arily, as here, with the gloss or surface worn off, threadbare. 


Sir Philip Sidney, called by Spenser " the president of 
Noblesse and of Chevalree " and by Fulke Greville, Lord 
Brooke, " the precious light of our skie," was born at Pens- 
hurst, Kent, in 1554. His father, Sir Henry Sidney, was an 
administrator of Ireland, and his mother was a sister of the 
Earl of Leicester. He was educated at Oxford ; and he was 
prominent in court life until 1579. At the early age of twenty- 
two he was employed as an ambassador by Queen Elizabeth. 
He fell at the battle of Zutphen in 1586. 

Sidney was looked upon by the men of his time as the pat- 
tern of knighthood. He possessed a charm of manner that 


won for him the admiration not merely of individual friends, 
but of the entire nation, and even of foreign peoples. At the 
time of his early death at Zutphen, all England went into 
mourning, and Oxford and Cambridge universities, together 
with numerous verse-writers, uttered their tributes to him in 
some two hundred elegies. The Netherlanders begged to be 
allowed to keep his body, and promised to erect to his memory 
a monument, " yea though the same should cost half-a-ton of 
gold in the building." 

Sidney was equally famous as a man of exquisite culture, 
representing in his scholarly, philosophical, and poetic in- 
terests the most advanced learning of the Renaissance. He 
was known almost as widely on the Continent for these ac- 
complishments as he was in England. William the Silent 
thought him one of the ablest statesmen in Europe. He 
travelled in Germany, France, and Italy, studied contempo- 
rary Italian literature and science, and associated with Lan- 
guet, Tintoretto, and Veronese. It was not only Greville, 
Hakluyt, and Spenser, in England, that dedicated works to 
him, but the Italian philosopher Bruno. In literature Sidney's 
interests were of the broadest. He exerted a profound influ- 
ence upon Elizabethan romance, criticism, and poetry. His 
Arcadia (1590) was an inspiration and a mine of suggestion to 
many contemporary and subsequent romancers. His Defense 
of Poesie (cir. 1581) was the most notable critical essay of 
Elizabethan literature, and has taken a lasting place in the 
critical literature of the world. Astro phel and Stella entitles 
him to a high place among the sonnet writers of his time. 
With Spenser, Gabriel Harvey, and others, Sidney was a leader 
in the discussion of poetic principles, and in the attempt to 
refine English prosody. By his own songs and sonnets, he was 
one of the first to vindicate the principles of English versifica- 
tion, and to prove that English poetry was capable of a classic 
finish and grace. 

Much discussion has centred about the personal element in 
Sidney's sonnets. There are those, notably Professor Morley, 

542 NOTES 

Professor Courthope, and Mr. Sidney Lee, who have seen in 
these poems little more than graceful exercises of the imagina- 
tion, written in honor of a lady of the court " for the amuse- 
ment of the public." While others believe that they reveal 
th^ throb of a genuine passion, in this matter the reader may 
be left to judge for himself. 


Anonymous, 1-45, 65-93, I01 
103-122, 127-139, 140-144, 
145-155, 161-175, 228-234, 

Barbour, John, 102. 

Caedmon, 45. 

Canute, 161. 

Chaucer, Geoffrey, 177-224. 

Clanvowe, Sir Thomas, 234-235. 

Cornish, William, 306-307. 

Cynewulf, 46-65. 

Douglas, Gawain, 268-269. 
Dunbar, William, 260-268. 

Edwards, Richard, 327-328. 

Gascoigne, George, 329-342. 
Gloucester, Robert of, 96-98. 
Gower, John, 224-227. 

Hales, Thomas of, 123-127. 
Hawes, Stephen, 244-246. 
Henryson, Robert, 249-259. 
Hoccleve, Thomas, 238-244. 
Howard, Henry, Earl of Surrey, 

James I, King, 246-248. 

Langland, William, 1 55-1 61. 
Layamon, 95-96. 
Lydgate, John, 236- 23S. 
Lyndsay, Sir David, 270-277. 

Manning, Robert, of Brunne, 

Minot, Lawrence, 98-ici. 

Orm, 122. 

Robert of Gloucester, see 

Rolle, Richard, 144-145. 

Sackville, Thomas, 342-350. 
Scott, Alexander, 280-282. 
Sidney, Sir Philip, 360-364. 
Skelton, John, 307-311. 
Surrey, Earl of, see Howard. 

Thomas of Hales, see Hales. 
Thomas, The Rhymer, 282-2S4 
Turberville, George, 328. 
Tusser, Thomas, 325-326. 

Vaux, Lord Thomas, 323-321, 

Wedderburn, James, 278-279. 
Wyatt, Sir Thomas, 313-318. 



^Ethelstan, Lord, and leader of earls, 81. 

After that Harvest gathered had his sheaves, 238. 

Ah ! Freedom is a noble thing, 102. 

Ah ! my Lord leave me not, 278. 

Alas ! so all things now do hold their peace, 319. 

All manner of joyes are in that stede, 144. 

A maid of Christ entreateth me, 123. 

A moth ate a word. To me that seemed, 72. 

And furthermore all dead things corporal, 277. 

And if ye stand in doubt, 309. 

And thus I sing, when pleasant spring begins, 332 

And wilt thou leave me thus, 315. 

As I was walking all alane, 285. 

As once I lay in winter's night, 127. 

A thousand tymes I have heard men telle, 182. 

Ave Maris Stella, 172. 

Be it right or wrong, these men among, 286. 
Be merry man ! and tak not sair in mind, 260. 
Beowulf chose from the band of the Jutes, 7. 
Beowulf said to them, brave words spoke he, 21. 
Between soft March and April showers, 164. 
Bewailing in my chamber thus alone, 246. 
Blessed be simple life, withouten dreid, 259. 
Brittle beauty, that Nature made so frail, 318. 
But first were chosen foules for to synge, 181. 
But welaway ! so is my hearte woe, 241. 
Byrhtnoth encouraged his comrades heartily, 84. 

Can I not sing but hoy, 301. 

Daisy of light, very ground of comforte, 236. 
Depart, depart, depart, 280. 

Earth out of earth is wondrously wrought, 170. 
England is a right good land, I ween of all the best, 96. 
Erce, Erce, Erce, Mother of Earth, 1. 


546 INDEX 

Fill the cup, Philip, 302. 

Flee fro the press, and dwelle with sothe fastnesse, 223. 

Forget not yet the tried intent, 314. 

For the Yule-tide had yielded, and the year after, 117. 

For this ye knowe well, though I would lie, 232. 

From depth of dole wherein my soul doth dwell, 330. 

Full oft by the grace of God it happens, 79. 

Gentle redar, have at me na despite, 273. 
God that shaped both sea and sand, 101. 

Hail thou Holy One, Heaven's Ruler, 46. 

Him that was, if I shall not feign, 236. 

How can the tree but waste and wither away, 325. 

I am now older than I was, in wisdom and in lore, 121 

I have heard my people, the peasant folk, 13. 

I know a maid in bower bright, 166. 

I'm found under water held fast by my mouth, 73. 

I'm prized by men, in the meadows I'm found, 74. 

In Court to serve, decked with fresh array, 314. 

I never drank of Aganippe's well, 362. 

In sickness and in povertie, 298. 

In summer, when the shaws be sheen, 285. 

In the season of summer, when soft was the sunne, 155 

Into the Kalendes of Januarie, 270. 

In the land lived a priest who was Layamon called, 950 

I saw a fair maiden a-sitting to sing, 173. 

I that in health was and gladness, 264. 

It is most true that eyes are form'd to serve, 360. 

It was then night; the sound and quiet sleep, 323. 

I war with the wind, with the waves I wrestle, 74. 

Laid in my quiet bed, in study as I were, 320. 

Leave me, O Love, which reachest but to dust, 363. 

Like unto the unmeasurable mountains, 313. 

Listen, Lordings, if you will, 98. 

List to an old time lay of the spear-Danes, 5. 

List to the words of a wondrous vision, 50. 

Lo, I have heard of a happy land, 54. 

Lo ! on a sudden, and all unlooked for, 47. 

Lord God deliver me, allace ! 281. 

Loud was their cry as they came o'er the hill, 2. 

Loving in truth, and fain my love to show, 360. 

Lullay, lullay, little child, 173. 

INDEX 547 

Maidens of Englelande sore may ye mourn, 101. 

Make room, sirs, and let us be merry, 303. 

Make we merry both more and less, 300. 

Make we merry in hall and bour, 299. 

Many a lonely man at last comes to honour, 65. 

Man yearneth rimes for to hear, 140. 

Martial, the things that do attain, 320. 

Merry it is while summer lasts, 163. 

Merry Margaret, 310. 

Me thoughte thus — that hit was May, 177. 

Midst of a cloister, painted on a wall, 237. 

Mine own John Poins, since ye delight to know, 316. 

My beak is below, I burrow and nose, 75. 

My girl, thou gazest much, 328. 

My heart is high above, my body is full of bliss, 304. 

Nothing is to man so dear, 140. 

Now brother Walter, brother mine, 122. 

Now Grendel came, from his crags of mist, 9. 

Now hymn we aloud the Lord of Heaven, 45. 

Now wends he on his way through the wild tracts of Logres, 119. 

Death rock me to sleep, 305. 

O earth ! on earth it is a wondrous case, 244. 

Of Februar the fifteenth nicht, 262. 

Once within a summer's dale, 136. 

O noble worthy King, Henry the ferthe, 224. 

O sop of sorrow sunken into care, 249. 

Our life is likest a long sea-voyage, 47. 

Pearl, princes prize, and men essay, 145. 
Pla ce bo, 307. 
Pleasure it is, 306. 

See I bring thee a secret message ! 71. 

Since first the world began, there was and still shall be, 3260 

Since through virtue increases dignity, 248. 

Sing lullaby, as women do, 329. 

Somer, that ripenest mannes sustenance, 244. 

Soul's joy, bend not those morning stars from me, 361, 

Spring is come to town with love, 162. 

Stand, whoso list, upon the slipper wheel, 315. 

Summer is a-coming in, 161. 

Sweetly sang the monks in Ely, 161. 

Sweet rose of virtue and of gentleness, 261. 

548 INDEX 

The god of love, a ! benedicite, 234. 

The host was harrowed with horror of drowning, 43. 

The hunt is up, the hunt is up, 303. 

The king shall rule his kingdom ; castles are seen from afar, 75. 

The life of this world, 172. 

The nicht came on, and every weary wicht, 269. 

The nightingale, as soon as April bringeth, 362. 

Then shall a fire, as clerkes sayen, 275. 

There's a troop of tiny folk travelling swift, 73. 

The Ruler of hosts, in the realms of heaven, 30. 

The soote season that bud and bloom forth brings, 318 

The wrathful winter, 'proaching on apace, 342. 

This ae night, this ae night, 297. 

Thise riotoures thre, of whiche I telle, 215. 

Though dusty wits dare scorn Astrology, 361. 

Thus came lo Engeland into Normandy's hand, 97. 

To you, my purse, and to noon other wyght, 222. 

Trolly, lolly, lolly lo, 163. 

True is the tale that I tell of my travels, 68. 

True Thomas lay on Huntly bank, 282. 

Upon a time as JEsop could report, 255. 

Us caitiffs then a far more dreadful chance, 322. 

Welcome, the lord of licht, and lamp of day, 268. 

We read full oft and find y-writ, 103. 

Whan seyd was al this miracle, every man, 214. 

Whan that Aprille with his sboures soote, 190. 

What cheer? good cheer, good cheer, good cheer, 300. 

What is man, wot wel I wolde, 299. 

What is this life but a straight way to deid, 268. 

What this mountain be-meaneth, and this dark dale. 159. 

What wisdom more, what better life, than pleaseth God to send, 

325- . 
When all is done and said, 323. 
When May is in his prime, 327. 
When that Phoebus his chair of gold so hy, 228. 
When the nightingale sings, the woodes waxen greene, 168. 
Where are they that lived before, 169. 
Widsith unlocked his store of lays, 3. 
Winter wakeneth all my care, 164. 
Wounded I am, and wea^y with fighting, 73. 

Your eyen two will slee me sodenly, 234. 

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